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Scouting Pitchers: Matt Harrison

James Benkard

James Benkard writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

(Statistics as of 9/30/08)

Harrison is someone who has good potential but will likely need another year or two before he's a viable fantasy option - but you shouldn't ignore him. The Rangers netted Harrison in their 2007 deadline deal that shipped Mark Teixeira to Atlanta. Texas also picked up Neftali Feliz, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Elvis Andrus and Beau Jones for Teixeira and Ron Mahay. Harrison split 2008 between Double- and Triple-A (6-3, 3.40 ERA in 15 starts) and Texas, where he went 9-3, 5.39 in 15 starts.

I scout these pitchers personally, recording their velocity, pitch selection and motions by watching their games. I use the standard 20-80 scouting scale to rate pitchers. These velocities are suggestive and not determinant of a pitch's rating. For example, a 75 MPH curveball might rank as a 60 because of its movement and/or deception. Please feel free to post your thoughts below on the pitcher or the column.

80 Outstanding (96+ MPH fastball, 88+ MPH slider, 82 MPH curveball)
70 Well above average (94-95 FB, 86-87 MPH SL, 80-81 MPH CB)
60 Above average (92-93 MPH FB, 84-85 MPH SL, 78-79 MPH CB)
50 Average (89-91 MPH FB, 82-84 MPH SL, 75-77 MPH CB)
40 Below average (86-88 MPH FB, 79-81 MPH SL, 73-75 MPH CB)
30 Well below average (83-85 MPH FB, 76-78 MPH SL, 71-72 MPH CB)
20 Poor (80-82 MPH FB, 71-75 MPH SL, 69-70 MPH CB)

Atlanta signed the left-handed Harrison (6-4, 225, Born 8/16/1985) with a third-round pick of the 2003 draft out of a North Carolina high school. He was brought along slowly at first, tossing just 105 innings through 2004. The Braves turned him loose at Low-A in 2005 and he made 27 starts (12-7, 3.23 in 167 innings). Harrison finished up A-ball in the first half of 2006 (8-4, 3.10 in 13 starts) and threw well in his first shot at Double-A (3-4, 3.72 in 12 starts).

Harrison's velocity dipped in 2007 as he battled a case of turf toe that led to shoulder irritation. The Rangers shut him down after they acquired him and then sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he showed he was healthy (5-0, 2.00 in 27 innings). Texas still played it safe with him by sending him to the Texas League to start 2008. Harrison tossed a seven-inning no-hitter at Double-A on May 18th. He threw 120 pitches, walked six and struck out five. He had six Triple-A starts (3-1, 3.55) and then made his major league debut on July 8th by beating the Angels.

Matt Harrison: (G/F 1.17)

		Rating:  %Thrown:
Fastball	60		60
Curveball	55		10
Slider		50		10
Changeup	60		20
Control	55
Delivery	60
Composure	50

Harrison throws a four-seam fastball ranges from 91-94 MPH and touches 95, and has an 88-90 MPH two-seamer. The Rangers seem to be preaching him to keep the ball down and work his cutter for grounders. Harrison's four-seamer doesn't play up to its velocity because it doesn't move much. His two-seamer has some movement, but it's not Tim Hudson's.

Harrison has a nice change-up that varies from 76-84 MPH. He is most effective when pitches it to contact, as opposed to using it for a strikeout pitch. Sometimes his change has the necessary late movement and deception to miss bats, but more often it's a good change of pace from his fastball. Harrison does tip his change-up now and then by slowing his arm speed.

Harrison has two breaking balls - a 75-81 MPH curveball and an 83-86 MPH slider. Working these two decent pitches into his game is his biggest weakness at this point. Harrison goes through stretches where he doesn't command or trust his slider despite its good velocity. He has a better idea of where his curveball is going, but could mix it in more effectively.

Harrison has a simple and sound high three-quarters delivery and does a good job of pitching downhill. He has the kind of repertoire that tends toward fly balls, but is doing a good job to address that so far in his career, with G/F ratios of 1.00 or above in 2008 at Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. While he is big, he isn't overly athletic, so his stuff isn't likely to improve. He came through the majors with a reputation of a feel for pitching, but I see a lot of room for improvement there.

Harrison was wildly inconsistent in 2008 for the Rangers, allowing four or more runs in eight starts and two or less in six starts. He threw eight scoreless innings on August 16 and shut out the A's on September 12th, but was also bombed several times. It's hard to be optimistic about Harrison's major league ERA in 2009. He didn't have a full year of Triple-A, plays in a hitter's park and will have one of the majors' best young offenses behind him. He'll win and lose some 8-6 games. All he really has to do is stay healthy, throw strikes and learn the league. The Rangers have a good crop of young pitchers with Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Kasey Kiker, Michael Main,and Brandon McCarthy, so Harrison will have some help as he tries to lead the Rangers to contention.


In two weeks: NL West: Clayton Kershaw

After the Kershaw column, I'll be taking a couple of months off before resuming in January.


Article first appeared 10/27/08