By Jeremy Balan
Thomas Harlan’s steady progress from a matchup reliever to top-of-the rotation ace at Fresno State paid off on Tuesday.
Harlan, who graduated from Archbishop Riordan High School in 2008 and just completed his senior season with the Bulldogs, was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 13th round (406th overall) of the MLB First-Year Player Draft.
A lanky left-hander listed at 6-foot-6, Harlan started out as a reliever for Fresno State and did not find success in the bullpen. In his freshman year he posted a 7.02 ERA in 16 2/3 innings and in his sophomore season he had a 6.84 ERA in 26 1/3 innings.
Then he worked his way into the starting rotation, made 12 starts in his junior season and lowered his ERA to 3.84, but that was nothing compared to his senior campaign.
Harlan posted a 2.78 ERA this season and led the Bulldogs in innings pitched (106 2/3), games started (16), wins (7) and complete games (2).
Being left-handed certainly aided his draft stock, as did his height and frame, but scouts also likely noticed his improved control. Harlan walked just 16 batters in his senior season at Fresno State and struck out 85.
“I’ve had the opportunity to see him as he’s developed and we thought he had good chance [to get drafted] if he stayed healthy,” said Tom Ledda, who was an assistant coach at Riordan when Harlan played for the Crusaders and is now an assistant at Lowell. “He proved it this year. He was in the pen early as a specialty guy and later on in his college career he proved he could go longer and longer. In his senior year, he was pretty dominant.”
A three-year starter at Riordan, Harlan had a 0.92 ERA and a 7-1 record in his senior season with the Crusaders and a 1.62 ERA in West Catholic Athletic League play. He also led the Crusaders in batting average (.360) in his final high-school season.
Harlan posted a 1.89 ERA as a junior and a 3.34 ERA as a sophomore at Riordan.
“Every time he was on the mound, we thought we had an opportunity to win,” Ledda said. “He’s a big kid and he was throwing in the mid-80s. He beat the best teams in the league throughout his [high-school] career.”