- Full name Charles Wallis Haeger
- Born 09/19/1983 in Livonia, MI
- Died 10/03/2020 in Scottsdale, AZ
- Profile Ht.: 6'1" / Wt.: 210 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Detroit Catholic Central
- Debut 05/10/2006
- Drafted in the 25th round (763rd overall) by the Chicago White Sox in 2001.
Organization Prospect Rankings
On the surface, Haeger appeared to take a major step backward in 2007. He was hit hard in too many of his eight big league outings and went 5-16 for Triple-A Charlotte. But it's far too early to write off a guy who might have the best knuckleball this side of Tim Wakefield. Haeger, who started throwing the knuckler full-time after a self-imposed one-year retirement in 2003, got out of whack with his mechanics during spring training. He didn't get them back under control until the second half of the season, when he finished strong. He had gotten long in his delivery but made a major adjustment, working almost exclusively out of the stretch in the second half. Haeger can mix in a mid-80s fastball and a decent curve, though he throws the knuckleball about 75 percent of the time. He did nothing to tarnish his reputation as a workhorse, topping 150 innings for the third straight season. Haeger is a good athlete who fields his position well. He clearly has fallen on Chicago's depth charts since the end of the 2006 season and could need a trade to get a long look as a big league starter.
Haeger spent two years in Rookie ball with a fringe-average fastball before leaving the White Sox in 2003. He reinvented himself as a knuckleballer, then blitzed through the minors to Chicago in 2006. On the way, he led the International League in wins. Charlie Hough says Haeger has the best knuckleball he's seen since Tim Wakefield arrived in the big leagues. It dances like a good knuckler should and Haeger has learned to trust it in any situation. He has a mid-80s fastball and a decent curve, but he'll throw his knuckler 70-80 percent of the time when it's on. He's an excellent pupil who has developed a rapport with Hough and Wakefield. The knuckler can give catchers fits, and A.J. Pierzynski committed three passed balls in Haeger's big league debut. It's a fickle pitch that sometimes moves so much he can't throw it for strikes. Chicago doesn't have a rotation opening for Haeger, which could leave him in a bind. Though he was effective out of the bullpen in September, it's hard for a contender to trust a knuckleballer in critical relief situations. He may make the White Sox in 2007 but probably will be kept on a short leash.
Going nowhere with a high-80s fastball, Haeger became so discouraged with his lack of development that he left the organization in 2003, playing golf for Madonna University in his native Livonia, Mich., where his brother Greg is the baseball coach. But Haeger didn't give up on baseball completely. He worked on a knuckleball that had been suggested by minor league pitching coach Chris Sinacori and decided to give pitching another shot. Haeger rejoined the White Sox as a knuckleball specialist in 2004 and broke through with 14 wins last year. He can make in-game adjustments when the knuckler isn't dancing as well as he would like. He uses a cut fastball to keep hitters off balance. As with most knuckleballers, his control can get dicey, but he holds runners surprisingly well. Fifteen of 24 basestealers were caught on Haeger's watch in 2005. He's mature for his age. The White Sox thought enough of Haeger to protect him on their 40-man roster this winter. His next stop is Triple-A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Haeger topped the IL with 14 wins and finished among the league leaders in nearly every category: 3.07 ERA (fourth), 170 innings (fourth), 130 strikeouts (fourth) and 78 walks (second). With uncanny command of a knuckleball for such a young pitcher, Haeger projects as an innings-eating No. 5 starter. Though Haeger still walked a lot of batters, he has improved the command of his lively knuckler to the point where he can go to either corner with the pitch. He can change speeds on the knuckler--ranging from 65-75 mph--depending on the effect it's having on batters. Some IL batters thought his knuckleball was the best they'd ever seen, and he reminded one scout of Tom Candiotti for the action he got on the pitch. When he falls behind, Haeger can go to a straight 84-86 mph fastball, a pitch that's easier to locate. It's strictly a get-me-over offering, which is problematic on days when his knuckler doesn't cooperate.