Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Rich Harden Dominates The Red Sox - Time To Sell High?

Rich Harden was phenomenal in his first start of the 2008 season, putting up this dazzling line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K - in leading the A's to a 5-1 win over the powerful Boston Red Sox. Harden was throwing hard and was simply overpowering at times just ask Jason Varitek, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez who account for 7 of Harden's 9 punch outs on the day. To his credit, Manny also accounted for the Red Sox only run with a solo shot in the 6th.

Back in late January, FSE did a piece on Harden discussing his injury history and outlook for the 2008 season. Here is what we wrote regarding Harden's fantasy value:

"Harden is a stud, in Mark Prior clothing. The bad thing about Harden is that every time out, you will worry if he'll get hurt and miss 2 months. The good thing is that he might become an afterthought in your draft and be a decent sleeper pick late. His injuries and lack of stats might make people forget about him, turning him into one of those guys taken in the last 5 rounds causing others to say things like "Oh, I totally forgot about him."

Sure enough Harden has gone late in most drafts, but today those who were savvy enough to snatch him up were rewarded. There is no denying the guy's ability on the mound. Heck, he arguably has one of the 10 best arms in all of baseball. However, Harden is almost guaranteed at least one DL stint this season and 5+ missed starts. Remember, he hasn't pitched more than 50 innings in a season since 2005 and has never reached the 200 innings mark, topping out at 189 in 2004.

Additionally, the A's held a serious fire sale this winter and will not be competitive in 2008. This will seriously limit Harden's ability to provide wins on a consistent basis and could end up making him a bit overvalued in fantasy.

Thus, I feel it is essential that Harden owners effectively spin him into a valuable piece before he inevitably goes down. I wouldn't trade Harden just yet as yes, this was just one start. However, if he were to string together a series of good April starts and maintain his health, I believe late April - early May is the perfect time to trade Harden for an impact bat or bullpen help.

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