Next up in the fantasy previews is the newest Nats pitcher, righty Dan Haren. He signed a one-year, $15 million deal this offseason after having the worst season of his career with the Los Angeles Angels. From 2005-2011, Haren made three All-Star games and never pitched fewer than 215 innings in a season, with an average ERA of 3.50 and WHIP of 1.15. Last season, however, a hip injury limited him to just 176.1 IP, with a lackluster 4.33 ERA and 1.29 WHIP. As returns from injuries are always dicey, projections on Haren’s 2013 vary widely:
Sep 22, 2012; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels pitcher Dan Haren (24) pitches against the Chicago White Sox during the second inning at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
ZiPS: 186.2 IP, 151 K, 37 BB, 3.91 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
MLB.com: 189 IP, 162 K, 36 BB, 3.76 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
CBSSports: 210 IP, 163 K, 51 BB, 3.60 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
ESPN Fantasy: 211 IP, 173 K, 39 BB, 3.71 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
Average: 199.1 IP, 162 K, 41 BB, 3.75 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
As these predictions indicate, there appear to be two different schools of thoughts on Haren. ZiPS and MLB.com expect Haren to miss a few starts and still struggle with his hip, dampening his performance in his limited time. CBS and ESPN are more optimistic, however, and foresee an effective Haren pitching at all but the level he did for the previous seven seasons. I would consider myself in a bit more of a middle camp, and agree mostly with the average: Haren will miss a start or two and pitch around 200 innings, but his hits allowed and ERA will drop with a strong defense behind him and the transition to the NL. Even with these improvements, Haren will be a lower-tier fantasy option, and will be on the waiver wire in many leagues. His health is key, and if he pitches without discomfort or missing starts, he could become much more valuable very quickly. If you have a spot with no clear-cut options, you could do worse than Haren. As for his contributions to the Nats, you know you’re spoiled when you’re wondering if your fifth starter can return to Cy Young-contending form. Haren will, at the worst, be exactly what the Nats need: a veteran who goes deep into starts and pitches decently, like an older but less healthy Ross Detwiler. At best, he’s an All-Star, and potentially the fourth one in a stacked starting rotation.