Scouting Yankee Prospect #30: Brandon Harmsen

The Yankees selected Brandon Harmsen in the 6th round of the 2002 Draft out of Grand Rapids Community College. In a breakout 2004 season, Harmsen displayed his pitching aptitude, pinpoint control and the ability to keep the ball in the park. It's these reasons that he's our Yankee's prospect #30.

Vital Statistics
Name: Brandon Harmsen
Position: Pitcher
DOB: December 13, 1981
Height: 6' 3"
Weight: 210
Bats: Right
Throws: Right
Place of Residence: Jenison, Michigan

Brandon Harmsen is a prime example of the constant conflict between overall results and detailed pitching statistics. He defies the laws of statistics, in fact, by putting up numbers that look awfully impressive. Drafted in the 6th round of the 2002 draft out of Grand Rapids Community College, Harmsen's 10-3 record and 3.53 ERA for Battle Creek in 2004 looks, yes, entirely convincing to look like an outstanding season. And for the most part, Harmsen had a very good year. But taking a closer look at the amount of hits he gave up (165 in 130 innings) and the fact that opposing batters hit well over .300 (.309 to be exact), it's kind of hard to figure out how he was able to keep his ERA well under 4.00. Still, Harmsen will join Abel Gomez and Tyler Clippard on the Tampa Yankee roster for 2005 and we'll see if he can get a few more batters to miss next year as he progresses through the farm system. He'll never be a power pitcher, but a thought for him to consider would be to be a bit for careful in the middle of the plate with only an average fastball.

If you were to judge Brandon Harmsen on the first part of his 2004 season, many would call you crazy in saying that he was such a talented young pitcher. The young righthander struggled mightily in the first part of the 2004 campaign, but after being sent to the bullpen for a time, he turned his season around and went on to have an outstanding season atop the Battle Creek rotation. Little by little, Harmsen is drawing the attention that he deserves. Well, for that matter, how could it be ignored? Even despite the mountain of hits he allowed, he was tied for the team lead in victories as he compiled an impressive 10-3 record. Not to mention, he also was among the team leaders in ERA with a 3.53 ERA. Those are some numbers that aren't so easy to ignore. With those statistics, he was able to carry the staff over a course of a couple months with his 10 straight victories. His 2004 season could be one that propels him to higher levels as a prospect.

With the smarts of an outstanding pitcher and the solid stuff to back it up, Brandon Harmsen is pushing himself into the Yankee's plans. Considering the sudden influx of young pitchers in the Yankee system, it isn't going be easy though. But, Harmsen has set his own goals for his career. "I'm 22. I'd like to be up there by the time I'm 25 or 26," Harmsen told PinstripesPlus.com. "Anytime before or after that would be great. I just want to get there, really." The thing is with Harmsen, also, is that he is never going to get himself into trouble. The hitter is going to have to get to him because Brandon is not going to give in. "He throws strikes more consistently than any other pitcher on the staff," Battle Creek announcer, Jeff Hem told PinstripesPlus.com. Harmsen's catcher, Omir Santos also had some complimentary words for the young righthander. "He throws a lot of strikes no matter what. If he can keep doing that, he's going to be successful," says Santos. So, despite his less than overpowering style, Brandon Harmsen has a lot to offer and it is possible that he could follow his fellow 2002 draftee, Brad Halsey to the big leagues in only a couple more seasons.

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2004

Battle Creek

10-3

1

130.0

165

32

80

3.53

2003

Staten Island

3-6

0

86.0

95

23

54

3.14

2003

Battle Creek

1-3

0

36.1

55

18

17

4.71

2002

GCL Yankees

4-5

0

57.2

51

17

46

3.59


Repertoire.Two seam fastball, Four seam fastball, Changeup, Slider

Fastball. Although he has about an average fastball in his arsenal, that is not really where the success comes from for Brandon Harmsen. His fastball ranges from about 87-91 MPH, but he is not out there to overpower the hitters. On the contrary, he gets by on his intelligence and command of all of his pitches. But, he knows how to move both of his fastballs up and down, and in an out in the zone. He hits spots very well and will produce a lot of groundballs with his two seamer. His fastball, more than anything else, serves as a good setup pitch for his changeup and slider. Harmsen is not going to blow anyone away with his fastball, but can tease hitters with it just out of the strike zone because he has built the reputation of throwing strike after strike.

Other Pitches. Here is where Brandon Harmsen makes his living in pitching. His off speed stuff is the key to his success as a starting pitcher. Brandon has an outstanding changeup that is one of the best in the Yankee farm system. It is also one of his best equalizers to combat left handed hitters with. Like all of his pitches, the Michigan native has excellent command of this pitch and can throw it in just about any count. In a way, it could be his best pitch. However, he doesn't use it quite as much when facing right handed batters. Instead, he utilizes his slider. Again, he is able to tease batters with the slider just off the plate. He throws a tight slider with late break, and the few strikeouts he gets are on this pitch most of the time.

Pitching. More than anything else, Brandon Harmsen is a pitcher who depends on guile and pitch location rather than power stuff. He gives up a ton of hits (165 in 130 innings pitched in 2004) due to the fact that he is not afraid to challenge hitters. Sometimes that gets in the way of success for him. When he isn't locating his pitches perfectly, he can sometimes get hit really hard. But, when he is going well, he can be as frustrating to hit off as Greg Maddux. He just moves the ball in and out, up and down and changes speeds well. He is similar to a righty version of Brad Halsey, with a better breaking ball.

Projection. At this point in his career, it is less clear than it should be what the future holds for Brandon Harmsen. One would think he'd have a starting spot in the Tampa Yankee's rotation all but locked up, but not so fast. With all the starting pitchers competing for spots in 2005, Harmsen may be an odd man out. However, to put it simply, if Brandon Harmsen is the goods, the Yankees will make a place for him. The 2005 season will be a good gage as to what the Yankees think of Harmsen. If he ends up as the odd man out, he will be used as a future long reliever.

Comparison. Woody Williams. This comparison is courtesy of Harmsen's teammate, John Urick. "Woody Williams, definitely, and remember I'm a Cardinals fan. They both trust their stuff so much that they both probably trust it too much. Both will have enough faith in their stuff that they'll groove one right in a batter's wheelhouse." However, that is something Harmsen cut down on a bit during 2004. However, it is still evident because he gave up well more than a hit per inning.

ETA. Late 2007. With or without a spot in the starting rotation, Brandon Harmsen will be starting the 2005 season in High A Tampa. Then, it appears likely that he could pitch in AA Trenton by 2006 with a possible late season promotion to Columbus. Barring any major setbacks, the righthander could be ready for the Bronx by late 2007.

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