Joe Blanton and Danny Haren (AP photos)
Young Pitcher Symposium: Joe Blanton and Danny Haren
Oakland inserted a pair of 24-year-old inexperienced righthanders in their rotation last spring, and both of them had successful seasons. What can we expect from Joe Blanton and Danny Haren in the future?
Blanton: Joe Blanton was drafted by Oakland in the first round of the 2002 draft, 24th overall, out of the University of Kentucky. His college career was erratic; he was not very successful as a freshman or sophomore, but started to put things together as a junior. He pitched very well in his full-season debut in 2003, with a stellar 144/19 K/BB ratio in 133 innings in the Midwest League, followed by a 3-1, 1.26 performance in Double-A to end the year. His 11-8, 4.19 season in Triple-A in 2004 was certainly credible, setting himself up for success in the Show in '05. His minor league career was marked by strong K/BB ratios and a decent overall K/IP mark. I gave him a Grade B- in the 2003 book, an A- in 2004, and a B+ in 2005.
Haren: Dan Haren was drafted by the Cardinals in the second round of the 2001 draft, out of Pepperdine. A solid two-way player in college, he pitched well from the outset as a pro, posting a 57/8 K/BB ratio and a 3.10 ERA in 52 innings for New Jersey in the NY-P after signing. A strong split-season between Class A Peoria and Potomac in 2002 got him on top prospect lists, as he combined for a 171/31 K/BB in 194 innings. He split 2003 between Double-A, Triple-A, and the majors, being overmatched in his initial major league exposure but flashing strong potential. He spent most of 2004 in Triple-A, then was shipped to Oakland before the '05 season. I graded him at B- in 2002, then Grade B in 2003. He had too much major league experience to be written up in the '04 book.
Blanton: In college, Blanton was renowned for his fastball, timed as high as 97 MPH. His control was erratic, and his curveball, slider, and changeup were all inconsistent; he was more of a thrower than a pitcher. Blanton was regarded as promising but somewhat raw for a four-year college guy on draft day. As a pro, things have changed. His fastball has lost velocity since college but seems to have gained movement. His secondary pitches are stronger now, and his control is usually an asset. He is more of a pitcher now than a thrower, reversing his amateur reputation. A big guy, he has strong legs but will have to watch his weight.
Haren: Haren was a successful two-way player in college, but made a quick transition to full-time pitching in pro ball. Like Blanton, he threw in the mid-90s as a college pitcher but has slowed down a tad, granted his fastball is still above average. His control has always been sharp, and he has made steady, consistent progress refining his curveball and splitter. Haren is taller and more athletic than the blocky Blanton. His mechanics are also considered cleaner than Blanton's and less likely to lead to injury. He had problems with fatigue early in his career but this hasn't been an issue lately.
Blanton: Comparable Pitchers to Joe Blanton:
William Van Landingham
Comment: All of these guys had major league success, but most of them had durability and injury problems that prevented them from being successful over a long period of time.
Haren: Comparable Pitchers to Dan Haren:
Comment: Another group of solid major league pitchers, though somewhat more durable than Blanton's list.
Overall I like Haren slightly more than Blanton. I think he has greater breakout potential and a better chance to have a long career, but both of them should remain effective starting pitchers if they can stay healthy.