House offers Indians solid starting option
Despite not having a standout pitch, young lefty has much to contribute
Cleveland Indians left-handed pitcher T.J. House isn't in the conversation regarding this season's crop of "off the chart" pitchers. He doesn't get the publicity of a Yordano Ventura or Masahiro Tanaka. Perhaps it's because House isn't overpowering with one standout pitch. Perhaps it's because he was drafted in the 16th round as opposed to the first round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft. For whatever reason, House remains somewhat under the radar.
House attended Picayune (Miss.) Memorial High School, where he was a three-time All-Region selection. He once struck out 20 hitters in a game as a junior and had a 0.89 ERA his senior year, striking out 99 and pitching to a record of 9-2. An excellent athlete, House was a member of the Maroon Tides' 2006 state championship swim team as well as being a standout pitcher.
Some say House slipped in the 2008 Draft because of his seemingly strong commitment to attend Tulane University, causing "signability" concerns for scouting departments.
House has all the physical attributes and frame of a prototypical, textbook pitcher. He is 6-foot-1, 205 pounds of solid, strong athlete.
Signing his contract late, House began his career in 2009 pitching for Cleveland's Class A team at Lake County in the South Atlantic League. That was quite a high level for the 19-year-old rookie. He had 26 starts and threw to an ERA of 3.15, with a 1.31 WHIP.
House has gone on to pitch parts of six seasons in the Indians' Minor League system. He has started 138 games of the 140 in which he has pitched. House has a composite ERA of 3.90 in 754 2/3 innings pitched. As is the case with many young pitchers, his command and control have been inconsistent. But House has shown improvement and has won the confidence of the Indians organization. So much so that he is now a part of the starting rotation at the Major League level.
House has an almost flawless delivery. He is smooth, fluid and composed. House repeats his mechanics from pitch to pitch, consistently maintaining his arm slot and release point. At one point in his career, he tweaked his delivery a bit to keep his shoulder from flying open. That change has worked well. House gets ahead in counts and mainly pitches to contact as opposed to constantly seeking the strikeout.
House features a two-seam fastball that he generally throws at 93 mph. The pitch gets good sink and helps induce a great number of ground balls. When House is on the mound, the infield gets plenty of work. His sinking fastball is probably his most effective, most highly used pitch. When House does use a four-seam rising fastball, he gets some late life into the hands of right-handed hitters. His slider is a mid-to-high 80s pitch with depth and plenty of movement. House can also call upon a changeup and curveball to finish off hitters as part of a complete pitching arsenal. At one point, his changeup was viewed among the best in the Indians organization. If House gets the ball up in the zone and the fastball doesn't sink, he can give up some fly-ball doubles and home runs.
While House may not have that one "knockout" pitch, he does have qualities that separate him from the pack. First and foremost, he is very relaxed and focused on the mound. House doesn't get rattled or ruffled. His mound demeanor is outstanding, with composure that can get him through a hiccup or two. It is House's slider that gets hit in the air. The sinking fastball generally ends up on the ground.
A healthy, durable pitcher, House has started at least 23 games in each season of his career. He has the potential to go deep in games and pace himself while on the mound. That's what I really like about him.
House is a no-nonsense pitcher without much flash. He's had a couple rough spots in his outings so far in the Indians' rotation. But House is capable of making the necessary adjustments to find success. Experience will help straighten out some of the rough edges.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.