Down on the Farm: Adam Harben

The Cubs have invited 16 non-roster players to spring training that begins this week. Of those 16 players, you might think that all will have the chance to compete for a spot with the big club, but that isn’t the case. Adam Harben is going to be at camp but he won’t be pitching. That is because he had Tommy John surgery a few months ago and with that comes with 10 to 12 months of rehab, which is what Harben will be doing at camp.

Harben was on the Cubs’ 40-man roster but after he went down, the Cubs didn’t tender him a contract and removed him. With that move, he signed a minor league contract and the Cubs promised he would still get an invite to camp. That explains why someone that can’t help in 2007 will still be at camp. Cubs Farm Director Oneri Flieta admits, “It doesn’t happen often.” It is a reward for what he would have earned if he were healthy.

For those that don’t remember where Harben came from, he was the player to be named later in the Phil Nevin trade last year with Minnesota. While still with the Twins in 2006 he pitched for New Britain, in the Eastern League, and ended with a 4-9 record and a promising 3.96 ERA. His 74/67 K/BB ratio was discouraging so they decided to send him to the Arizona Fall League to work them out. He didn’t get much chance to work things out when he was shut down with the elbow soreness before having surgery in November.

Harben did display some promise before the injury, mostly with the Twins but he could be a strong pitcher once he returns from his injury. He showed real promise in 2004 and 2005 with ERA’s of 3.09 and 2.66, respectively. Over the two seasons, he had a record of 19-12, with 290 strikeouts and 130 walks. He is a sinkerball pitcher and was able induce twice as many groundouts as fly outs while he was pitching for New Britain last year. That would work well at Wrigley Field if he makes it there.

Now Harben won’t be someone you have to worry about this year, but since the Cubs invited him to camp I wanted to make sure and cover him in case some of you hadn’t heard the news about his injury. Now he isn’t on the list of the Cubs top prospects currently because of his injured elbow but for those that like to see lists I have one you might find interesting.

2005 Top 20 Prospects – Florida State League

  1. Andy LaRoche, 3b, Vero Beach
  2. Justin Verlander, rhp, Lakeland
  3. Lastings Milledge, of, Port St. Lucie
  4. Jason Vargas, lhp, Jupiter
  5. Matt Kemp, of, Vero Beach
  6. Matt Moses, 3b, Fort Myers
  7. Denard Span, of, Fort Myers
  8. Justin Orenduff, rhp, Vero Beach
  9. David Purcey, lhp, Dunedin
  10. Jordan Tata, rhp, Lakeland
  11. Tony Abreu, 2b, Vero Beach
  12. Chin-Lung Hu, ss, Vero Beach
  13. Adam Lind, of, Dunedin
  14. Brent Clevlen, of, Lakeland
  15. Scott Moore, 3b, Daytona
  16. Adam Harben, rhp, Fort Myers
  17. Chuck Tiffany, lhp, Vero Beach
  18. Brian Dopirak, 1b, Daytona
  19. Tim Moss, 2b, Clearwater
  20. Philip Humber, rhp, Port St. Lucie

As you can see, Baseball America listed Harben as the 16th best prospect in the league. Granted, this was in 2005 but it does show his potential. Lists do not mean much because you can go back, look at top prospects lists from years ago, and see players you have never heard of.

This year John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com had him rated 12th, but that was before his injury.

Cubs’ Top Prospects from John Sickels at Minorleagueball.com:

  1. Felix Pie, OF
  2. Donald Veal, LHP
  3. Eric Patterson, 2B
  4. Sean Gallagher, RHP
  5. Mark Pawelek, LHP
  6. Jeff Samardzija, RHP
  7. Tyler Colvin, OF
  8. Jae-Kuk Ryu, RHP
  9. Scott Moore, 3B
  10. Ryan Theriot, INF
  11. Juan Mateo, RHP
  12. Adam Harben, RHP
  13. Mitch Atkins, RHP
  14. Jake Fox, C
  15. Chris Huesby, RHP
  16. Jose Ceda, RHP
  17. Ryan Harvey, OF
  18. Clay Rapada, LHP
  19. Rocky Cherry, RHP
  20. Chris Shaver, LHP

It is up to the player to take the potential and turn it into something worthwhile that can get them to the major leagues. Harben has hit a bump in the road on his trip and will have to wait before continuing. Like most of the players I have talked about, Harben has the talent. The question is how will he come back from this injury and does he have the drive to succeed at all levels. By being at camp this year and seeing some major league players it could give him a taste of what that holy grail of baseball is like and make him work that much harder to get back their permanently.

Adam Harben’s Baseball Cube Page

Coming next- Down on the Farm: Tyler Colvin

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