Continuing our look at the Mets’ options with the seventh overall pick in June’s amateur draft, today we’ll take a look at UNC righty Matt Harvey.
School: North Carolina
Weight: 225 lbs.
What He Brings
Harvey has one incredible asset: he’s got a great fastball, one of the very best in this year’s weak college class. He throws it in the 91-95 mph range, and he’s been known to touch 97. Most importantly, it’s not a flat 91-95, either. It’s a heavy pitch that hitters just pound into the ground—the latest ground-ball numbers I’ve seen have his rate at 64%, a very solid mark.
He pairs that with a decent changeup and a slider with some late break, which have become his primary offspeed pitches. I don’t think he has a true swing-and-miss pitch, but when your bread-and-butter is ground outs, you can survive without one. A curve gives him a chance at a four-pitch arsenal.
Mechanically, the arm action isn’t too bad. There are one or two issues to be worried about, but I don’t think it’s a negative on the whole. Finally, there’s his size, which is just right for a college pitcher. He looks like a workhorse, and, true to form, he’s demonstrated the ability to throw hard deep into games.
What He Doesn’t Bring
The offspeed stuff is suboptimal. The changeup is really just average, and while the slider has some late break, it’s not a true two-plane pitch. I think it can be hit when thrown for strikes. Back in high school, when Harvey was regarded as one of the top prep arms in the country, he was known for a big breaking ball. That curve has completely vanished, and he rarely throws it anymore. When he does, it’s very inconsistent and fools no one.
The other big issue is control. Before this season, it’s been real poor, averaging more than five walks per nine innings over each of the last two years. This season it has been much better, but it’s still not considered an asset by scouts.
And when you look at his mechanics, it’s small wonder he’s had control difficulties. He has a slow tempo due to a low separation point at the start of his motion, and he’s not doing himself any favors with his striding leg. Not only is he landing upon it very stiffly, but he’s also not landing in the same spot. He tends to land toward his pitching side, causing him to occasionally throw across his body. It’s very, very difficult to put the ball where you want when you do this.
I’m just not a huge Matt Harvey fan. I like hard sinkers, but I usually prefer to see them accompanied in a pitching prospect by either pinpoint control or a good slider. Matt Harvey just doesn’t have enough of either of those things yet to convince me that he’s worth the commitment of a top-seven pick, especially if Chris Sale is sitting there (although most signs indicate that Sale isn’t escaping the top five). Now, I’m not a huge Chris Sale fan for similar reasons, but he at least has much better command and a superior ground ball rate.
The command is the deal-breaker here for me. College hitters can be fooled easily. Throw a sinker they can’t see, even if it’s never high enough to be a called strike, and most will swing. But once hitters learn to lay off the sinker below the zone, pitchers need to be able to either adapt their plans with superior secondary offerings, or they need to learn how to pound the bottom edge of the zone. I think Harvey’s going to face an uphill battle to do either one of those things well.