Editor's Note: We're starting a new series today that will appear a few times a week before the season begins. You choose the player that will have the better year of the two we feature. Sometimes it may seem like an easy exercise and other times it may be more difficult. ESPN.com fantasy expert Eric Karabell will weigh in with the player he thinks will have a better fantasy year.
At first blush, this might not seem very hard. After all, Harrison is coming off 18 wins and a 3.29 ERA. In fact, two consistent seasons helped him earn a new five-year deal. The 27-year-old Harrison's goal is to continue to show he can stay healthy and consistent. He pitched 213 1/3 innings in 2012, by far the most in his career.
Holland, on the other hand, struggled last season. He battled illness, arm fatigue and inconsistency and was 12-7 with a 4.67 ERA. The guy that pitched those 8 1/3 shutout innings in Game 4 of the World Series didn't show up last year. But that guy's in there somewhere. Holland, I believe, is the tipping point of this rotation. If he performs closer to his second half of 2011, this rotation becomes a deep one. If not, it could be very top-heavy.
After spending a week at spring training, I like Holland's attitude. He's more focused on the task at hand and understands that he has to eliminate some distractions. He knows he's capable of a lot more than he showed in 2012 and he knows it's important for this team that he gets the job done.
Still, how can you choose Holland over Harrison at this point? Harrison's got a longer track record and has put together two seasons with ERAs below 3.40 and at least 30 starts. Harrison seemed to continue to improve last season and was named to his first All-Star team. He may not rack up strikeouts and wow folks at times, but he's a confident pitcher who uses his stuff wisely. So I'm taking Harrison, but I think it's a close one.
Karabell's thoughts (remember, his job is to pick the best fantasy player of the two):
I think Harrison is the better fantasy choice, though not by much. It’s worth noting each barely cracked ESPN Fantasy’s top 50 starting pitchers, going consecutively at Nos. 48 and 49, each way, way behind ace Yu Darvish, who I think is a top-10 starting pitcher option. The main reason I like Harrison a bit more than Holland is consistency. Harrison isn’t the one that permitted 32 home runs in 2012. While Holland does possess the greater strikeout rate, there’s also more risk of ERA problems, as we’ve seen for stretches. Harrison’s cumulative ERA and WHIP the past two seasons (3.34 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) looks like his baseline at this point, and even with little threat of an above-average strikeout rate, most of the time fantasy owners want the safer option. Harrison keeps the ball down and induces ground balls, which is wise with Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre waiting to turn them into outs.
Holland is simply more erratic, thus more of the risk. While Harrison was solid home and away, first half and second half, Holland certainly was not. Holland was basically unusable in home games, a theme fantasy owners are used to with Colorado Rockies pitchers, but it’s a pain to deal with it for others, especially top-50 options. If you ask me which of these left-handers has the higher upside eventually, I’d take Holland, mainly because of the strikeout potential. But for the 2013 season, Harrison is the safer bet.
Ok. It's your turn. Pick 1: Harrison or Holland and tell us why.