Player Profile: Matt Harrison
Salary: $8.2 million ($13.2 million each year 2015-17 with $13.25 million team option in 2018)
Each week, we will look at key players on the Texas Rangers 25-man roster, and this time we look at a key component of the starting rotation in 2014, Matt Harrison.
Year in Review: Something wasn't right. The velocity was several ticks off from what he was throwing in 2012 and he was finding too many bats in his first two starts. Then the news hit that Harrison would have back surgery to repair a disc and would be back in August at the earliest. August came and rehab didn't go well as it led to a third surgery, this time for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in his non-throwing shoulder.
Harrison was named the Opening Day starter in 2013 after having the sixth best season for a Rangers starting pitcher according to Baseball Reference (6.1 rWAR) in 2012, but the back problems would mean it was a lost season for the lefty.
Career: Harrison's averages in his two full seasons (2011-12): 31 starts, 16 - 10, 3.34 ERA, 199 IP, 129 Ks, 132 ERA+ and 5 rWAR. Those numbers make him a solid No. 2 starter in MLB and have him on a similar career path to Cliff Lee through their age 27 season, according to Baseball Reference.
2014 season: Once Wrigley tripped Derek Holland in a fit of rage, Harrison became arguably the most important player on the 25-man roster. With a healthy Holland, Harrison would've been only asked to be a No. 3 or No. 4 pitcher on this staff behind Yu Darvish and Martin Perez, but now the pressure is on for Matt to return to 2011-12 form.
What to expect in 2014? Since the injury occurred, there is no easy way to predict his season.
Steamer Projections on Fangraphs have him at 29 starts, 11-11, 4.37 ERA, 173 IP and 2.3 WAR. Oliver Projections over at Fangraphs have the following: 19 starts, 8-6, 3.72 ERA, 119 IP and 1.5 WAR. I believe the Rangers are counting on a better performance than even Steamer projects. With Holland out, Harrison needs to pitch in the neighborhood of 200 IP, 29 starts and 3.75 ERA.
'I feel good to go and should be ready for Opening Day,' Harrison said at the Rangers' media luncheon back in December. 'It's not about how quick I can get back. It's more about taking each step a little bit slower, working my way up to where I need to be a lot earlier.'
Let's hope no more freak injuries happen in 2014, because the Rangers can't afford to lose any more arms and/or key pieces to this team.
Eddie Middlebrook is a staff writer for Paranoid Fan, covering MLB and college football. Back in 2010, Eddie wrote for Fox Sports Southwest covering the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks and the Big 12. In 2012, he began writing for Shutdown Inning where he eventually became Vice President of Media. You can email Eddie at firstname.lastname@example.org or catch him on Twitter @emiddlebrook.
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