2011 Fantasy Baseball Sleeper: Aaron Harang, P San Diego Padres
Aaron Harang has long been an under the radar fantasy starter who produces steady if not spectacular numbers year after year. Last season was a mess for Harang who battled injuries most of the year and was eventually left off of the Reds' postseason roster. He has rehabbed his ailing back over the entire off-season and signed a one-year deal in San Diego where he will have to prove that he can still hold up to the grind of being in the starting rotation. My guess is that he will do just that and possibly a good deal more.
Aaron Harang – RHP – San Diego Padres
2010 Stats – 6-7, 111.2 IP, 5.32 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 82 K’s
Average Draft Position - 360
Sleeper Scale Rating (#1-5) – 4
Harang is one of those players whose name won’t bring about any excitement or possess any fantasy nostalgia, but rest assured he has been on plenty of fantasy baseball championship teams over the years. Over his career he has been a steady producer in ERA, WHIP and K’s; although pitching in Cincinnati he hadn’t accumulated very many wins.
The move to San Diego couldn’t be any better for Harang. He is a notorious fly ball pitcher who has had to deal with pitching in one of the most HR friendly ballparks in the major leagues in Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Now he moves into the ever spacious and pitcher friendly Petco Park. The same ballpark that has made other reclamation projects such as Jon Garland, Kevin Correia and Heath Bell thrive.
Better than the new ballpark, however, will be Harang hooking up with Padres manager Bud Black. Black has worked wonders with pitching staffs over his coaching career. First as the pitching coach for Mike Scioscia’s Anaheim Angels, and now as manager of the San Diego Padres. Every season Black is handed a variety of down and out starters and relievers yet manages to form a solid and sometimes spectacular pitching staff. What Bud Black does exceptionally well is call the game from the dugout himself. He calls a game based on his pitchers strengths and what is working for them on that particular day, instead of trying to press them toward the hitter’s deficiencies. It is this same feel and logic that sustained him in his own pitching career.
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I expect Black to work with Harang to get back to what was working for him in 2005-2007 when he was an innings eating strikeout machine for the Reds. Harang will pitch more to contact this year and will eventually learn that everything hit in the air will not soar out of the park as it did in Cincinnati. He is non-existent on most fantasy rankings thus far and he is a prime sleeper candidate for this season. I would compare him to Jon Garland last year, although Harang has a higher upside in my opinion, especially in strikeouts.
Harang is at a crossroads in his career. He has had a good deal of success while with the Reds and being among the league leaders in strikeouts for a couple seasons. But the grind of a long season and the wear of 200+ innings per year eventually take its toll on a starter of Harang’s age. But at 32 and playing on a one year contract, he will have to prove himself worthy of the multi-year contract he surely aims to be in the market for come next off-season. Thus, it is a good bet that he’ll come into Padres camp in great shape and will pitch through most aches and pains associated with being a starter in the major leagues. I expect him to log close to 200 innings once again and rack up his usual 170 K’s. I further expect an ERA close to 3.20 and a WHIP right around the 1.30 level which would make Harang a very productive fantasy pitcher in 2011.
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