Call me crazy, but I'd consider taking Harden in front of Verlander next year. Yes I own Harden, but I've also owned Verlander in the past. I'm also not a bitter owner who is upset at his production (or lack thereof) this year. Getting that out of the way, I can very easily see many publications touting Verlander as a "buy low" next year, and Harden as a guy to avoid going into drafts. If that's the case, Verlander may yet again be relied on too heavily, and Harden avoided to greatly.
Obviously if I do draft Harden in front of Verlander, I will be surrounding him with more stable talent. The fact is, everyone can agree, when Harden is healthy he is a stud. Not a single person has argued against that, even the pro-Verlander posters can agree with that assessment. Health is the issue, and always has been and always will be the issue with Harden. Because of the risk associated with Harden (injury) owners can plan accordingly. The risks around Verlander are different, and to me, scarier. Verlander is putting together an absolutely miserable season, following an absolutely miserable post all-star break from last year. Another troubling fact is his career splits against teams in his division, teams he'll face multiple times a year in all likelihood. The only team he has posted trully top shelf numbers against are the Royals, a team that has some good young hitters developing that could hurt his numbers just a touch. He's put up mediocre-good numbers against the Twins (57 IP 4-4 3.63 1.33 and 33 K's) and absolute garbage (or Livan Hernandez esq numbers if you prefer) numbers up against the Indians and White Sox (6-16 with a 6+ ERA and a WHIP over 1.40 if you averaged all the starts together).
Also concerning is Verlander's HR totals, which aren't terrible, but considering he pitches his home games in Detroit, not say Cinci, Texas, etc., aren't very good (57 career in 557 IP). Also more concerning is that he's allowing these HR's while he's supposedly relying on his 2 seam fastball, a groundball pitch from my understanding. Verlander's career 1.29 WHIP is nothing to write home about, and his K rate fluctuates way too much for my liking. His .237 BAA this year and career .247 BAA are certainly promising, but consider me someone not sold on Verlander.
As for Harden, the concerns will always be his health. Stuff never comes into question with him. However, is it unreasonable to think that at 26 (going on 27 in November) he might finally being maturing physically and able to endure the rigors of a full season (with the expected short DL stint most pitchers have during a season)? Some will say yes, but I say why? Yes caution should certainly be used drafting him next year, and no one should rely on him as an ace, but as a number 2 with ace potential why not? He's pitching fantastic in the NL, and he'll be there next year. He doesn't have the accumulated wear and tear of throwing a huge number of innings, and maybe that'll work to his benefit here on out for his career. Verlander is also looking at possibly working another 200+ IP this year, and who is to say that won't catch up with him next year?
Obviously this has been a hot topic, and not all will agree with where I stand, but it is certainly something to ponder I believe. Besides, if you want a real bounce back candidate give me Aaron Harang, the dude is gonna slip way too far in next year's drafts