Name: Matt Harrison
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: August 16, 1985
Former Braves prospect Neftali Feliz introduced himself to the Metroplex on Monday night by firing multiple triple-digit fastballs at Frisco's Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Just over one month ago, Matt Harrison – another key component of last season's trade with Atlanta – also made waves in Frisco. He tossed a seven inning no-hitter.
On Tuesday evening, the 22-year-old Harrison will make his big league debut.
Originally drafted in the third round of the 2003 MLB Draft, Harrison methodically worked his way up the Braves' minor league ladder for parts of five seasons before joining the Rangers organization last summer.
Harrison made 20 starts with Atlanta's Double-A affiliate last year, but he did not pitch after the July 31st trade.
The southpaw reported directly to the Rangers' minor league complex in Arizona, where he rehabbed through the end of the season.
At the time of the trade, there were concerns regarding the health of Harrison's shoulder. Because of those concerns, the Rangers were actually able to snag left-hander Beau Jones away from the Braves in addition to Harrison. As it turned out, Harrison had a relatively minor foot injury that was causing him to put extra stress on his shoulder.
After giving Harrison a short rest, the Rangers sent him to the Arizona Fall League, where he would play against some of baseball's top offensive prospects.
Harrison went on to post impressive numbers in the Fall League, as he went 5-0 with a 2.00 ERA in seven starts. His fastball sat in the low-90s, topping out at 93 mph.
The North Carolina native began the 2008 season at Double-A Frisco, but after spending parts of the last two seasons at the level, he didn't figure to be there long.
Harrison's season hit a speed bump early on when his velocity dropped to the mid-to-upper 80s. He would eventually be placed on the disabled list with shoulder tightness after a particularly rough outing in Corpus Christi.
After his return from the disabled list, the left-hander went on to put up a 2.20 ERA in five starts before his promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma.
With the RedHawks, Harrison has been more consistent on the whole. Since his first Triple-A start, in which he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings, the prospect has not allowed more than three earned runs in any outing.
Also See: Harrison adds fourth pitch (September 19, 2007)
Harrison credits slider for success (November 13, 2007)
Harrison looking to locate (April 20, 2008)
Instant Analysis: Frisco at Corpus (May 8, 2008)
Harrison tosses no-hitter (May 19, 2008)
Harrison getting ahead with RedHawks (June 24, 2008)
Repertoire: Fastball, Changeup, Slider, Curveball.
Fastball: Harrison's relatively low velocity in spring training and his first few starts of the regular season understandably worried Rangers fans, particularly because they had not gotten an extended look at the prospect. Luckily, Harrison's velocity troubles have been a thing of the past ever since his two week DL stint in late-April.
The southpaw has solid velocity on his fastball, as he generally sits between 88-92 mph throughout his starts. He has consistently shown the ability to hold his velocity late into games this season. During a recent start at Triple-A, Harrison threw four fastballs between 93-94 mph in the eighth inning. He also flashed the ability to reach back for extra on his fastball during the last two innings of his no-hitter in May.
Because Harrison is likely to have the adrenaline flowing from the first pitch on Tuesday, his first start after returning from the disabled list should probably be noted. In that outing, he threw five 94 mph fastballs in the first two frames, then saw his velocity fall to 88-90 once he reached the 50-pitch mark. Although that is certainly not the norm for Harrison – and it doesn't figure to be in the Majors – it shouldn't be a surprise if he shows similar tendencies in Tuesday's start.
Velocity aside, the key for Harrison will be getting ahead of hitters with his fastball. Although he did not walk many batters with Frisco this season, he was still falling behind quite a bit. This caused him to go deep into counts and his pitch counts inflated in a hurry.
Harrison has done a better job of getting ahead of hitters since his promotion to Oklahoma, but he is still inconsistent with it. In two of his six Triple-A starts, he has worked at least 7 2/3 innings while throwing 110 pitches or fewer. But he is still somewhat inconsistent, as evidenced by his six inning, 115-pitch start on July 3.
If there is one aspect of Harrison's game that must improve before he could be considered completely ready for the next level, it would be his ability to consistently pound the strike zone early with his fastball.
Other Pitches: Right around this time last season, Harrison was just beginning to learn his new breaking pitch – a slider. Now, the slider is his go-to breaking pitch.
Harrison began the season using the slider almost exclusively against left-handed hitters. He wanted the pitch because his curveball – despite getting almost unanimous rave reviews from scouts – was not effective enough in helping him retire left-handed hitters.
Lefties hit .318 and .288 off Harrison in 2006 and 2007, respectively. With Harrison using the slider against left-handers, he was able to hold them to a .179 clip [7-for-39 with no extra-base hits] in the Arizona Fall League. That success has carried over to the 2008 regular season, as they are currently batting .268 against him.
The Rangers spent some time during spring training getting Harrison to work on throwing his slider – which is already an above-average pitch – to right-handed hitters. Because he does like to work inside with his fastball, throwing sliders on the hands of righties should lead to more swings-and-misses and broken bats. Harrison has slowly, but surely, begun to trust his slider more against all hitters as the season has progressed. It's often easy to forget that the pitch is still relatively new to him.
Harrison uses the breaking pitch that he basically left in the dust – his curveball – as more of a show-me pitch these days. Although it is still a good looking pitch, he threw just a few during his eight inning start with the RedHawks.
The hurler's most consistent pitch as a professional has been his plus changeup. Harrison will use his change, which sits in the 80-82 mph range, throughout the game and in just about any count.
Like most pitchers, Harrison tends to go with a fastball-changeup mix in the game's early innings before working in his slider and curveball during the second and third trips through the batting order.
Projection: Harrison's ceiling is likely as a mid-rotation starting pitcher, but it's also a ceiling that he has a strong likelihood of reaching. If he is unable to iron out his aforementioned issues, he could still fit as a back-of-the-rotation starter for the Rangers. Harrison still has plenty of time to develop – he's just 22-years-old.
|2003||GCL Braves (RK)||3-1||39.0||40||9||33||3.69|
|2006||Myrtle Beach (A+)||8-4||81.1||77||16||60||3.10|
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