I asked a friend of mine if the Mets
should consider offering Matt Harvey
extension as the Rays
did to Matt Moore
(5 years/$14M (2012-16), plus 2017-19 club options). He replied that it would seem wise but for the fear in his heart fostered by years of watching exciting Mets prospects flame out.
"Gen K, Heilman, Pelfrey... I've seen this before and want to be sure Harvey's the real deal," he said.
It does seem like we get our hopes up often for young pitchers only to see them fail to live up to those hopes. Matt Harvey still has a small but body of work to be judged by but maybe we can learn a few things.
Let's take a look and see how he compares to those pitchers and also see what we can tell from the pitchf/x data so far. This is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of his career, merely a set of observations.
I want to see if we can safely call Matt Harvey an elite pitcher (if not established) and determine if it's wise to offer an extension.
Burned in the past
Here's the thing with Matt Harvey, he's already better than those other pitchers ever were. It's no longer a question of him reaching his ceiling, it's staying there. Gen K, Heilman, or Pelfrey all had potential and simply didn't deliver.
Over the course of their entire careers, Jason Isringhausen
, Paul Wilson
, Bill Pulsipher
, Aaron Heilman
, and Mike Pelfrey have a combined 2 games striking out 10 or more batters. Matt Harvey already has 3.
The best single season K/9 for any of these players--again, over their entire careers--is 9.5 (Heilman as a reliever). Harvey's career line is 10.9 K/9. Harvey has potential but has also already delivered
Beyond the hype, what kind of stuff are we talking about?
We know he throws hard. He's 5th among SP in average fastball velocity at 94 mph, (Strasburg is #1 at 95.6 mph). He also throws it a lot and with great success. But is he reliant on it?
In reality, the fastball isn't even his best pitch (although you could argue that it's how he sets up other pitches with it that makes it more valuable). He ranks 6th in slider velocity at 87.6 mph (#1 Shields, 88.6) while he ranks 8th in z-plane movement at 4.2. As a result, he has a .064 opposing batter AVG on that pitch.
I mean, look at this thing.
The curve and the change
The curveball appears by the eye and by the data to be average, which is just fine for a 4th pitch. The changeup, however, while similarly effective, so far has the natural movement to become a weapon. To wit:
His changeup features a respectable -10.4 x-mov and 6.7 z-mov. Can he repeat the pitch consistently with this kind of fade and depth? Something to watch.
I have no scouting expertise so I can't identify any mechanical issues but it passes my own eye test--no "inverted w" or apparent maximum effort. Also, he's a big, sturdy-looking dude. He has no record of health issues in college or professional baseball. He could get hurt tomorrow just like any pitcher but the odds appear to be in his favor.
Matt Harvey has a career 2.33 ERA in 73.1 IP, a 10.92 K/9. The caveat here is sample size. I don't expect him to stay this lucky but the stuff is there to sustain that level.
I believe Matt Harvey can be called an elite pitcher already. It certainly won't hurt to wait a little bit longer but the best time to lock him up longterm may be close, if it isn't here already.
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