Brett Harker was back in a much more comfortable role last summer than the Phillies had put him in during his first pro season. After being drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2005 Draft, Harker, who was a successful closer at the College of Charleston, found himself in the starting rotation for the Batavia MuckDogs. Things didn't go very well for Harker, who struggled in his new position. This past summer, the Phillies promoted him to Lakewood and moved him back to the bullpen and to be more specific, made him the closer for the BlueClaws. Things went very well for both Harker and the 'Claws as the young right-hander saved 17 games for the South Atlantic League Champion BlueClaws.
There is still some consideration that Harker could be successful as a starter, but it appears that Harker will stay in the more comfortable closer's role when he moves to Clearwater for the 2007 season.
Brett Harker's career stats
Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the fifth round of the 2005 Draft out of the College of Charleston.
Pitching: Harker has shown an ability to throw a lot of innings. He was used heavily as a college reliever, throwing almost 170 innings over three seasons at the College of Charleston. Even though he didn't have impressive numbers in his first pro season, Harker was able to pitch deep into games, averaging just over five innings per start in his final six games of Batavia's season. The fact that Harker shows potential to throw a lot of innings makes it tempting to put him in the rotation and see what he can do, but the fact that he has shown the poise and ability to pitch as a closer is almost too good to ignore.
Repertoire: When you look at the pitches that Harker throws, it's again tempting to put him in the starting rotation. He has a strong change-up that could be put to good use as a starter and makes his fastball all the more effective. On its own, Harker's fastball is pretty good and generally hits the low 90s with some decent movement, but mixed with the change-up, it's a tough pitch to hit. Harker also has an excellent curveball that may be slightly wasted as a reliever, but would be very effective for him as a starter. Harker mixes all of his pitches well, but relies on his fastball more in the role of a closer than he does his other pitches. His velocity is getting better and he could be in the mid 90s by the time he's ready to pitch at the higher levels.
Projection: It appears that the Phillies are going to keep Harker in the bullpen, but teams sometimes keep pitchers in that role until they start to move through the system and get closer to the majors. Harker will most likely start the season with the Clearwater Threshers and figures to be their closer. Scouts believe that Harker can handle any role that's thrown at him, but most believe that he's got the makeup to be an effective closer and only needs to put a little more velocity on his fastball. Harker wouldn't have much trouble stretching himself out as a starter, since he jumped immediately from the bullpen to a starter's role and was pitching deep into games.
ETA: This is a kid who could move at a level-per-season pace. That would put him at Triple-A for the 2009 season and he could get a shot either late in that season or out of spring training in 2010. It's not every pitcher who can move at that pace, so don't be surprised if Harker falls a little behind that schedule.
Comparison: Some scouts believe that Harker has the potential to show the same sort of development that Scott Mathieson has shown. Ironically, Mathieson is a starter who many believe could be a closer down the road, while many believe that Harker could switch to being a starter. It should also be noted that Harker's talent isn't quite on the level of Mathieson, but he has the potential to have the same sort of stuff at some point down the road.