AFL: Thomas Harlan Throws Three Strong Innings

In the Arizona Fall League on Thursday afternoon, it was a quiet game for Pittsburgh Pirates players. Thomas Harlan started the game, but all three position players were on the bench. Scottsdale lost 7-3 to Surprise to drop to 5-4 on the season.

Harlan had some issues behind him in the field, getting two ground balls to shortstop that resulted in the first two batters reaching base. He got a ground out from the third batter as well, which resulted in an out at second and runners on the corners. Harlan threw a wild pitch on the first pitch to the next hitter, which brought home the first run. The runner from first moved to second on the play, then stole third base and came home after the throw to third got away, the third error of the inning. With the score 2-0, Harlan got his fourth ground ball, this one right back to him for the second out. On his 23rd pitch of the inning, Harlan got his fifth ground out to end the frame.

The second was a nice easy inning for Harlan, despite giving up a lead-off single. That runner was quickly erased on a double play and then next batter grounded out to third base for the final out. Harlan used just nine pitches in the inning. The third inning was quick too, setting down the side in order on eight pitches. He struck out the final hitter on a foul tip held on to by the catcher. That was the end of his outing. He gave up just one hit, no walks and both runs were unearned, though his own wild pitch contributed to the damage. He threw a total of 40 pitches, going almost exclusively with fastballs.

Harlan pitched well on Thursday and put up some good performances in AA this year, but having PITCHf/x available for this game gives you a better understanding of why he isn’t a top prospect. His fastball sat 86-87 MPH, topping out at 88, but there were also some 84-85 MPH pitches mixed in. That is in line with what we have seen in person each of the last two seasons. While he has good control most of the time, to succeed at the upper levels with those speeds, you need pinpoint control all game and some above average secondary stuff. In the lower levels, left-handed pitchers can get away with lower speeds and we have seen many examples of that in the past. They almost always top out at AA, but they looked great in the lower levels.

If you missed it from yesterday, Angel Sanchez was just added to the Scottsdale roster and went out and struck out three batters in his only inning of work. The 24-year-old righty was picked up off waivers in late July and had a 4.32 ERA in 33.1 innings for Altoona.

Scottsdale will be home for a night game Friday against Glendale.

  • Joe Sweetnich
    October 16, 2014 6:31 pm

    But – Harlan is left-handed. So even at 88 it he is a prospect.

    • Being a lefty helps him, but he hit 88 three times in 40 pitches. He hit 84 and 85 more than that. That is what I saw while he was with WV and what Tim saw at Bradenton. This wasn’t a down start for him, he is consistently averaging about 86 MPH with his fastball. You have a hard time finding players with success like that. It’s usually a lefty-only guy(which wouldn’t make him a prospect) or some veteran on the back-end of his career who has multiple pitches and marginal success aka Barry Zito or Jamie Moyer. It isn’t guys coming up through the minors. Orlando Castro, Eliecer Navarro and Jhonathan Ramos have all looked as good as Harlan at a younger age and they get sorted out at the upper levels. Castro has excellent control and he can hit 90. Navarro was 87-89 with his pitches and Ramos sat 87-88, but hit 90. The only consistently softer throwers than Harlan that I have seen are Rinku Singh and Mike Jefferson, both lefties, both probably averaged about 85