Cardinals Top 10 Prospects
By Will Lingo
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 220. Drafted: Pepperdine, 2001 (2nd round). Signed by: Steve Gossett.
Background: Haren came out of Pepperdine in 2001 with teammate Noah Lowry, a lefthander who was drafted ahead of him but endured a season of shoulder problems in 2002. Haren, meanwhile, led the minor leagues in innings and jumped up the Cardinals prospect list. He was West Coast Conference player of the year his junior season at Pepperdine, where he also was a DH. Haren showed flashes in his first professional summer but wore down, losing 15-20 pounds in the process. There was no such problem last season. Haren was a workhorse and opened as the ace of the staff at Peoria, which featured many of the organizations most promising prospects and won the Midwest League title. But he quickly earned a promotion to high Class A Potomac, where he held his own for a mediocre team.
Strengths: Harens biggest strength is that he has no glaring weakness. At 6-foot-4 he has the frame of a workhorse and clean mechanics. He has three solid pitches and can command them all, and his big body allows him to generate a good downward plane on his pitches. His fastball is 88-92 mph, with a lot of 90s and 91s, and he can touch the mid-90s. He got better tilt on his slider last season and used his changeup more. He throws a splitter that was one of his better pitches in college, but the Cardinals asked him to keep it in his back pocket for now. If he brings it back, it would be another weapon. Haren works quickly and pitches inside, going after hitters. He also has a little bit of funk in his delivery, which creates deception.
Weaknesses: Haren tired at the end of the season, understandable under a 194-inning workload. The organization says its goal is to protect arms while getting pitchers to the big leagues, and Harens frame and mechanics allowed him to pile up more innings than another pitcher might. Given the organizations injury history, his health will bear watching. Otherwise, he just needs experience against more advanced hitters.
The Future: He still projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, but it looks like Haren will reach that goal more quickly than expected. Hell open in Double-A and move up if he pitches well.