Mariners Insider

Want to replace Aaron Harang? Well here’s the candidates

Post by Ryan Divish on Aug. 12, 2013 at 5:25 pm with 8 Comments »
August 13, 2013 12:05 pm
AP file phoeo
AP file photo

Following another less than stellar outing on August 7 against the Toronto Blue Jays where Aaron Harang never made it out of the third inning and gave up seven runs on five hits with three walks, acting manager Robby Thompson was asked if the veteran right-hander would remain in the starting rotation.

Thompson replied: “I can’t answer that right now. As far as I’m concerned, he’s still in the rotation.”

Barring an unexpected change in the next few days, Harang will start for the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays.

It’s a source of much consternation for Mariners fans, who have grown weary of Harang’s unpredictability and are ready for a change. It’s an understandable premise, and one with merit.

According to numerous reports, Harang was placed on revocable waivers a week ago to gauge interest in possibly making waiver trade if any team were to claim him. To this point, there is no information that anyone has made a claim.

Harang has had an up-and-down season. In 19 starts, he’s posted a 5-10 record with a 5.79 ERA. The Mariners are 7-12 in those starts. They are far from inspiring numbers. He does have two complete game shutouts this season, but they also came against the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros – far from offensive juggernauts. Harang has made 14 starts against traditional American League teams, not including Houston. In those outings, he’s posted a 2-9 record and given up 59 runs in 64 2/3 innings for an 8.21 ERA.

And yet, the Mariners continue to roll him out there.

Why? They don’t have a lot of options.

It’s why they traded for him after a few weeks into the season with Erasmo Ramirez injured and Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer faltering as starting pitchers.

Now with a month and a half left in the season, the Mariners still have Harang in the rotation. They had hoped former top draft pick Danny Hultzen would assume that spot by July. But his recurring shoulder issues submarined that plan.

Let’s say the Mariners do decide to part ways with Harang in the next week or two.  Who would they replace him with in the rotation?

The kids

Taijuan Walker, right-hander, Tacoma Rainiers

The top pitching prospect is who everyone wants to see assume that spot. Walker started the year with Double A Jackson and was called up to Tacoma in mid-June. He was dominant in first four outings, going 2-0 and allowing just two earned runs. But the league has caught up with him a little in his last few starts. He has a 3-2 record in eight starts with a 3.73 ERA. If you look at his numbers, Walker has only had one start longer than five innings with the Rainiers. Still, Mariners fans want to see the future now. But the Seattle front office can’t make a decision with Walker based on what fans want to see. They need to do what’s best for the young phenom. He turned 21 years old on Tuesday and has less than three full years of minor league experience. The Mariners fully expect him to compete for a starting spot next spring. Does calling him up now help or hinder that timeline? It’s also instructive to remember that Walker has an innings limit this season. He’s thrown 125 innings thus far, which is just short of the career high 126 2/3 innings he threw last season. The Mariners likely won’t let Walker exceed 150 innings pitched this season. So he has about three to four more starts left this season.


James Paxton, left-hander, Tacoma Rainiers

The third member of the now little used “Big 3” moniker. The hard-throwing left-hander is in the midst of his first full season at Triple A. It’s been anything but consistent. Paxton, 24, has posted a 7-9 record with a 4.42 ERA in 22 starts and one relief appearance. He’s struck out 113 batters in 118 innings pitched with 44 walks. Paxton has struggled to find economy of pitches and efficiency in outings. Of the 22 starts he’s made, he pitched more than five innings in just seven of them. There was a stretch in July where Paxton posted four straight quality starts, including two complete games and a shutout. The talent is there. He’s also going to run into an innings limit issue. He threw a career high 106 1/3 innings last season despite knee issues. He probably only has a handful of starts remaining this season.

Andrew Carraway, Tacoma Rainiers, right-handed pitchers

Most scouts and some people within the organization feel Carraway is a Quadruple A pitcher, who would need optimal conditions to have success at the big league level.

The retreads

Blake Beavan, right-hander, Tacoma Rainiers

Beavan started the season in the rotation and lost his spot to Harang. Changes to his mechanics in the offseason left Beavan struggling to find his command with his offspeed pitches. He scrapped some of those changes after being sent to Tacoma in April. He pitched a few months in long relief for the Mariners where he had middling success. Beavan was sent back to Tacoma to get stretched out as a starter in July. He’s 1-3 with a 6.17 ERA in six starts since being sent down The Mariners know what Beavan is and isn’t as a starter. He’s made 43 big league starts over three seasons and has a 16-18 record with a 4.53 ERA. He’s a big guy that will pitch and give you innings. They won’t all be good, and they won’t all be bad, but he’s shown the ability to pitch a minimum of six innings in most outings.

Brandon Maurer, right-hander, Seattle Mariners

After a brilliant spring training, Maurer started the season in the big league rotation, skipping the Triple A level and jumping all the way from Double A Jackson. In hindsight, it was a mistake. Maurer looked overwhelmed at times, posting a 2-7 record with a 6.93 ERA in 10 starts before being sent to Tacoma. Left-handed hitters brutalized him, hitting over .300 and posting a plus 1.000 on-base slugging percentage against him. With Tacoma, he posted a 3-4 record with a 5.21 ERA in 10 starts. He has been pitching long relief for the Mariners the last few weeks, but could get stretched out quickly if needed. Maurer, who battled elbow issues early in his career, threw a career high 137 2/3 innings last year. He’s only at 105 1/3 innings this year, so an innings limit isn’t as big of an issue.

Hector Noesi, right-handed pitcher, Tacoma Rainiers

It could happen. I don’t want it to happen. I’m not sure the Mariners do either. Noesi is what Noesi is. And I’m not sure the Mariners want to deal with that right now.

The long shot

Tom Wilhelmsen, right-hander, Tacoma Rainiers

Remember when he was the Mariners closer? He’d come out of the Safeco Field bullpen with the cool Jimi Hendrix entrance music blaring and highlights of him striking out hitters with his 98 mph fastball and knee-buckling curveball.  You should remember it was this season. After a brilliant start to the season, Wilhelmsen pitched himself out of the closing job – twice. Lost fastball command and dwindling confidence turned him into a shell of the pitcher that picked up 17 saves in 17 opportunities to start the season. Now he’s in Tacoma trying to find both. There is some thought that Wilhelmsen’s personality may not fit the high-stress, ultra-pressure, late-inning relieving role as once believed. The Mariners won’t give up on him. There’s too much talent. And while they won’t commit to moving him to a starting role, it’s an idea that’s been bounced before around in the organization. People forget that Wilhelmsen was a starter when the team first signed him. He’s made 42 minor league starts, including 12 in 2011 with Double A Jackson. Besides the fastball and curveball, he has an improving change-up for the important third pitch that all starters need.


Leave a comment Comments → 8
  1. wabubba67 says:

    Hmmm…too soon for Wilhelmsen to make the switch to starter. If that’s the direction that the M’s would like to go eventually. I would prefer to see him as a 7th or 8th inning set up man. I too, believe, that his personality is not ideal for the closer’s role.

    Harang is clearly not part of the Mariners’ future. As such, the organization is deciding to waste opportunities for experience in a meaningless season if another pitcher is ready for that opportunity. Beavan, Maurer and Noesi all had their shot and failed. Maurer will get another one someday, but his current numbers at AAA indicate that he is not quite ready for the bright lights again. Paxton doesn’t seem ready and I would prefer patience with Walker.

    That leaves Andrew Carraway. Let’s find out if the scouts are accurate in their assessment that Carraway has a low ceiling and is destined to only become a competent AAAA pitcher. There is nothing to lose during another non-competitve season and possibly everything to gain.

    By the way, I like the old Dodger model of breaking in talented young starters as long relievers at the big league level. It’s an effective way to transition between the obscurity of the minors to the intensity of the majors. By appearing primarily in blowout games, the pressure lessens a bit and the pitcher is hopefully able to not feel overwhelmed by the moment.

    Ryan, any thoughts about why teams went away from this model?

  2. bbnate420 says:

    Just stick with Harang into September. I’d like to see them give Maurer, Walker, and Paxton each a start in September if their innings permit. Don’t really see the point of Noesi or Beavan, though Beavan would likely give you at least what Harang is.

  3. Quinault says:

    GMZ went all in with the 1-year rental bats and was counting on bringing in the pitching corps to put a dramatic improvement on the resume. I seriously thought that Paxton would be the first up. Now I can wait until September to see anything.

    If we win 3 games this road trip I would be surprised. This could be the end of Harang, Wedge and Thompson’s Mariner careers. Still thinking about GMZ. We will reach the 3/4 pole and we can start to sprint to the finish, but as mentioned, without pitching – there is nothing left in the tank.

  4. Skysport says:

    As much as it pains me to say it we probably just need to suck it up and put up with Harang as opposed to cutting into next season’s pitching pie before it’s ready.

  5. bbnate420 says:

    If anyone should go first, besides Lincoln and Armstrong of course, it should be GMZ IMO. I think the coaching staff should be the decision of the next GM, if there is one.

    As hard as it is to be optimistic as a M’s fan, I actually think this team could be very competitive for the postseason in 2014 if the right moves are made, injuries aren’t to bad in 2014, and some players either continue or accelerate their progress.

    I have some faith that they will be able to keep Morales considering the qualifying offer. Signing Ellsbury should be a priority IMO. I think they should keep Morse as well if they can get him for close to what he was paid in 2013. The injuries may scare teams off. Morse could DH, play 1st, and play some outfield. You then have Ackley, Ellsbury, and Saunders as the other OFs.

    Bullpen could use a little attention. Capps and especially Pryor coming back strong in 2014 would be huge. Still have to settle on a closer. I certainly think Pryor has the stuff and makeup if healthy.

    Starters are probably okay IMO. I don’t think you invest much in a veteran starter anyways. King Felix and Kuma should be very good. Saunders is a serviceable member of a rotation. You then need 2 of the 5 of Maurer, Walker, Hultzen. Paxton, and Ramirez to work out fairly well in 2014.

  6. bbnate420 says:

    BTW, I really like how Farquhar has pitched lately. I believe he has enough stuff to be a closer if he can locate his breaking pitch. It’s WAY too early to count on him though.

  7. dakineinthemuk says:

    …ok then…someone mentioned “sticking w/harang”…uh, that would uh, make m’s the stuckee, methinks…let him go, oh, you already tried, you say…even astros?..oh, my!?..give the kids a chance…the tacoma infield is doin real good..why not the hurlers…whatya got to lose…at least walker…maurer can start, walker to long relief or versa/visa…as previously stated, let morse!..try to keep morales…could be tough… much?..often injured…mmmmm must be others…..forgoodnesssake let gutierrez aint gonna happen…repeat after aint gonna’s time…go m’s…pleease

  8. picothepirate says:

    I agree with wabubba67, lets see Carraway. That has got nothing but upside potential. He either smokes the audition or we find out that he isn’t any better than Harang. Either way we lose nothing and possibly gain a head start on next season. While this season has been more fun to watch I agree that it is over and we should audition next years possibilities a little bit early.

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