Fantasy Baseball: Don't Forget Matt Harrison as a Possible Waiver Target

Eric StashinSenior Writer IApril 20, 2010

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 06:  Matt Harrison #54 of the Texas Rangers pitches during a Spring Training game against the Kansas City Royals on March 6, 2010 in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

I was a believer in Matt Harrison entering 2009 (click here for my article on him from January ‘09); however inability as well as surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome caused last year to be a complete washout.  Just look at the numbers he posted when he actually took the mound:

4 Wins
63.1 Innings
6.11 ERA
1.64 WHIP
34 Strikeouts (4.8 K/9)
23 Walks (3.3 B/99)
.332 BABIP

Once considered among the Braves top prospects, there’s no doubt in my mind that he is better than that.  No, he’s not a strikeout artist, with a minor league career K/9 of 6.3, but he was extremely impressive nonetheless.  Just look at these highlights from the 2003 third round selection:

  • 3.41 ERA
  • 1.23 WHIP
  • 2.1 BB/9
  • .304 BABIP

Yes, they came against minor leaguers, but the numbers are incredibly realistic.  With that type of BABIP and control, he has the stuff to be a solid WHIP option in all formats.  Of course, he may not get the control back all at once given the time on the DL, but he didn’t show any ill effects this spring.

Over 16.0 innings in spring training he walked just four batters, a BB/9 of 2.25.  He also showed an ability to get strikeouts (15).  If he can come even close to those numbers in the regular season he is going to be a steal off the waiver wire (he hasn’t produced quite as many strikeouts once the season has started, with 7 Ks in 13 IP).

Of course, knowing his history as we do, it’s hard to imagine him maintaining the strikeouts.  However, if the control is there (and it has been, with just two walks in 2010) with a strikeout rate even of six or seven per nine innings, the results could be worth owning in all formats.

He’s not a groundball pitcher (minor league mark of 46.7 percent), but he’s not an extreme fly ball pitcher either (36.1 percent).  For his minor league career he posted a HR/9 of 0.7 and allowed just one this spring.  That will be the other big key for him pitching in Texas.  Keeping the ball in the ballpark will go a very long way for him to succeed (over his 147 Major League innings his HR/9 is 1.3).

Clearly I’m not suggesting you run out and scoop him up off the waiver wire right now.  What I am saying is to not let his name slip from your mind.  In 2007 Baseball America had ranked him as the Braves's third best prospect (behind Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Elvis Andrus).  He was one of the centerpieces of the Mark Teixeira trade.

He has talent (and has posted a 1.38 ERA and 1.00 WHIP), he just needs to harness it.  He also has benefited from a lot of luck, with a .252 BABIP and 79.4 percent strand rate.  The key is going to be improving the strikeout rate, so the decreased luck does not have a major impact.

Watch him closely over his next start or two (against Boston and Detroit).  If he has his control and is keeping the ball in the ballpark, do not hesitate to stash him in all formats (those in AL-only, obviously, can take the gamble sooner).  He has the potential to be a solid play all year long.

What are your thoughts on Harrison?  Is there any chance he is usable in 2010?  Would you consider him?

For some 2010 projections, click here .  Among those we’ve already covered include: