No Braves' pitching prospect climbed the charts as much as Matt Harrison in 2005, who had a fantastic season in Rome. Harrison finished with 12 wins (tied for third in the South Atlantic League), a 3.23 ERA (10th), 151 hits in 167 innings pitched (2nd), only 30 walks, and 118 strikeouts (tied for 11th) in 27 games started (tied for second). Harrison separated himself from the other high school pitchers the Braves selected in the 2004 draft. Baseball America ranked him as the 8th best prospect in the Sally League, but failed to recognize him as one of the Braves' top ten prospects, which shows the quality depth in the organization. With Andy Marte gone, Harrison is probably in BA's Braves' top ten now.
Rome Pitching Coach Jim Czajkowski
"He features a fastball, change up, and a curve. He's primarily a fastball, change guy. He's got more advanced skills than a regular 19-year-old. He has a tendency of taking off when he gets in trouble instead of adding on with his fastball. When he feels like he's in trouble, he doesn't tend to try to throw it by someone. He takes a little bit off and uses his off speed stuff to let guys get themselves out. He doesn't rely too much on his fastball to get guys out when he's in trouble. But he locates his fastball very well. It's got average life to it. Sometimes a sinking action, but it usually tails off to a right hander. He pitches in real well. He's got an idea of how to keep batters guessing at him. Probably the best attribute that I can give him is that he stays low. He rarely goes up. He stays at the knees or lower. If he goes any higher, that's when he gets in trouble. But he's good at staying at the knees and lower."
Matt Harrison turned 20 late in the 2005 season, so he'll pitch much of this year still under 21, unusual for the older Carolina League. Harrison is a quiet kid, and he lumbers around much like a fellow North Carolinian Kevin Millwood. He's six-foot-five, 215 pounds. Who knows how big he will be in two or three years? Possibly similar to Millwood. The left-hander showed tremendous control last season, walking only 1.61 batters per nine innings. With his decent fastball and terrific breaking stuff, Harrison has the chance to really develop well over the next few years. It's scary to know this kid will now work with Bruce Dal Canton in Myrtle Beach, who always seems to get the most out of his young pitchers. If Harrison has another solid season, he will start getting national attention as the next great Braves' pitching prospect. He's still a few years away, but Harrison could really become a name to keep in mind when thinking about the future of the Braves' rotation.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at email@example.com.
Minor League Profile: Matt Harrison
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