In the glorious afterglow of Willie Harris’ clutch game-tying home run, let’s all take a minute and enjoy the fact that BASEBALL IS BACK! Now, back to the countdown.
For the number 3 prospect in our countdown, right-handed pitcher Matt Harvey, the Major League arrival is not a question of if but rather when. A 6’4”, 225 pound beast drafted seventh overall in last summer’s amateur draft, Harvey put up a 3.09 ERA in his junior season at UNC but did not pitch with the Mets after he took them right down to the signing deadline (naturally, he’s a Scott Boras client). As such, he is likely to start the season in St. Lucie and begin a professional career that many in the organization and outside it are modeling after a certain giant righty slated to start the season on April 1st in Florida.
This is not to say that Harvey’s selection was universally acclaimed. He was drafted at least 10 picks before most mock drafts had him going, and in particular his early college struggles had many teams concerned about whether he can really put his tremendous skill-set together. Indeed many fans might see a little bit too much Brad Holt in Harvey, but the belief in the front office is that while Holt is still running into mechanics problems, Harvey overcame his during his sophomore season and never looked back.
What we do know is that Harvey has the repertoire of a bull-dog right-handed sinkerballer. His fastball, which sits in the mid-90s but touches 97, has a tremendous driving sink that makes it his signature offering. If nothing else, the fastball ensures that Harvey has the pedigree for a late-inning relief role, but the Mets have much higher aspirations than that. Harvey has oscillated between throwing a traditional overhand curve and a tighter slider; he throws both but seems more committed to developing the slider, so it would be interesting to check in on him as the season progresses and see what he’s throwing more. He has a change-up that rates merely average. Mostly, Harvey’s development hinges on commanding the fastball and bringing one or, hopefully two of the secondary offerings up to a respectable level.
So why Harvey all the way up at number 3? It should stand out as a recurring theme in this countdown that the outlook for a lot of these prospects are more optimistic than they would be under the Minaya regime because there is no longer the specter of an impatient GM rushing their development, and the Harvey outlook is no exception. While thrilled as I am with the pitcher Mike Pelfrey has turned out to be, I often wonder what kind of player he would be if he had refined his secondary pitches in the minors rather than at the big-league level. There is no such threat with Harvey. Expect him to take his time working up from high-A, with the expectation that he needs to dominate at every level before earning promotion. And with that fastball, just the addition of a couple solid secondary pitches can launch him into the realm of top-of-the-rotation guys. And look at the size of the dude! I don’t want to hit against him, do you?