At this point last season, many in the Orioles organization thought Haehnel could be a threat to make the big league bullpen at some point in 2007. After all, he had done little but dominate professional baseball since being drafted in the 8th round of the 2004 draft. Unfortunately, Haehnel did not respond well to a switch to the starting rotation, which was an effort by the organization to get him more experience. Few players struggled as consistently as Haehnel in 2006 but it is impossible to completely ignore what he accomplished up until this season.
DOB: 7/21/82 Height: 6-4 Weight: 180 B/T: L/L
David Haehnel's age 24 season:
While it would be difficult to classify any of Haehnel‘s statistical indicators as anything but disappointing, his 6.22 ERA overstates just how bad he was this season. One major problem that Haehnel had no control over was his home park context. While Harry Grove Stadium isn‘t necessarily hitter-friendly, the short porch can wreak havoc with flyball pitchers like Haehnel. The workload of a starting pitcher also wore on Haehnel, who routinely tired after three innings.
On most nights, Haehnel works in the high-80's with a deceptive fastball, though he has touched 92 MPH at times. He has an excellent changeup that hitters have a tough time with because he repeats his arm speed so well. At this point, his slider is behind his other pitches. It has moments of being an average pitch, but Haehnel rarely uses effectively from inning to inning, much less start to start. Frederick Keys Piching Coach Blaine Beatty told ITW "he's really improved his secondary pitches- the changeup and slider", but he‘ll have to show a similar step forward again in 2007 to succeed in the upper minors.
Thankfully, the starter experiment is now over. The Orioles will definitely get Haehnel a look at Double-A Bowie at some point in 2007, but he may begin the season in Frederick's bullpen to regain confidence. Beatty is certainly confident that 2006 was not a lost season, telling ITW "You know, there was a period in there where he was struggling and I thought it was starting to get to him, but he's obviously persevered. I think we've conveyed to him that the numbers are not as important as him developing his stuff and I think he's relaxed and let himself go." If his theories on Haehnel prove correct, the 24 year old left-hander could quickly work his way back into the organization's plans.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com