New York Mets: 10 Things We Already Learned About Matt Harvey in MLB

Shale BriskinContributor IIIAugust 8, 2012

New York Mets: 10 Things We Already Learned About Matt Harvey in MLB

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    On July 26, the Mets' made a big step towards their future by having one of their top prospects, Matt Harvey, make his major league debut against the Diamondbacks.

    That day, Harvey pitched 5.1 innings and gave up just three hits with 11 strikeouts to pick up his first win. He even had two hits at the plate, which made him the first pitcher in major league history to strike out over 10 batters in his debut, while also collecting multiple hits at the plate.

    His next start came against the Giants, in which he gave up two earned runs and struck out seven batters in what turned out to be a tough luck loss as he got outpitched by Tim Lincecum. However, in his most recent start against the Padres, Harvey gave up five runs, including three home runs as he suffered his second loss.

    With the Mets having lost Dillon Gee for the year, it has already been stated that Harvey will pitch the rest of the season with the Mets. This will give great experience, for what should be a remarkable rookie campaign he will have in 2013.

    Three starts into his major league career, here are 10 things that we have learned about Matt Harvey so far.

1. Harvey Is a Power Pitcher

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    With a fastball that can reach 98 MPH, Harvey definitely fits the mold of a power pitcher. His fastball is certainly above average, due to his velocity and command of the pitch. In his major league debut, he was blowing that fastball by hitters in all areas of the strike zone. Harvey can also integrate a two-seam fastball with his standard four-seam fastball. The two-seam can reach 92-94 MPH.

    Another reason why Harvey is a power pitcher is because he is better known for his fastball than his secondary pitches. His main secondary pitches include a slider, which tops out in the upper 80s and a strong curveball that he has had success with. He has very good command on both pitches. However, his fourth pitch, the changeup is the one he has struggled with this year and trying to develop better command with it.

2. Harvey Still Needs to Consistently Limit the Walks

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    After getting drafted with the seventh overall pick in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft, Harvey made 14 starts and pitched 76 innings with Single-A St. Lucie before getting promoted to Double-A Binghamton, where he made 12 starts and threw 59.2 innings. Across the 135.2 combined innings that year, Harvey allowed 47 walks, which translates to 3.1 walks per inning, which is good, but not great.

    This year, Harvey's walk rate increased as he allowed 48 walks in just 110 innings in Triple-A Buffalo before his major league promotion. His walk rate raised to 3.9, which became one of the concerns the Mets initially had about calling him up at this point in the season. However, once Johan Santana went on the disabled list, the Mets basically had no choice but to promote Harvey.

    In his first three major league starts, Harvey allowed three walks in his debut against the Diamondbacks, three against the Giants and just one against the Padres. However, being that he threw more strikes against the Padres, he got hit hard and gave up three home runs.

    Hopefully, Harvey will limit his walks for the remainder of the season and also limit the runs and hits he allows as well. Harvey already has the velocity and poise of a major league player. Once he consistently establishes command of all his pitches, the sky will be the limit.

3. Harvey Can Hit

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    Not only does Harvey have excellent potential to be a great major league pitcher, he can also hold his own at the plate.

    Harvey got his first two major league hits during his debut, with his first hit being a long double to center field. This is nothing new for Harvey. Earlier this year, he batted .267 with four hits in 15 at-bats, including a home run and four RBI.

    Mets pitchers over the years have been some of the better hitting pitchers in the league. Earlier this year, Jeremy Hefner homered during his first major league start and another current Met, Johan Santana hit his first career home run at Citi Field in 2010. R.A. Dickey is batting .200 and Jon Niese has a .206 average, both of which are rather good for a pitcher.

    Harvey could soon join a long list of pitchers that have hit a home run in a Mets uniform, which includes Hefner, Santana, Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, Craig Swan, Walt Terrell, Dwight Gooden, Ron Darling, Sid Fernandez, Jason Isringhausen, Paul Wilson, Mark Clark, Armando Reynoso, Rick Reed, Bobby J. Jones, Shawn Estes, Steve Trachsel and John Maine, among others.

4. Harvey Is Not Exactly an Innings Eater

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    During his first professional season, which was split between Single-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton, Harvey made 26 combined starts and threw 135.2 innings altogether. That averaged out to 5.2 innings per start that year.

    In Triple-A Buffalo this year, Harvey threw 110 innings and made 20 starts, which resulted in about a 5.2 innings per start average. As a Met, Harvey threw 5.1 innings in his debut, 6.0 innings in his second start and 5.0 innings in his most recent start.

    Despite the small sample size, it's clear that Harvey currently is not a pitcher that can be trusted to throw seven or eight innings per start. It could be that Harvey simply isn't the most durable starter, or that the Mets are just trying to limit his overall innings, similarly to what the Nationals are doing with Stephen Strasburg. Of course, the Mets are not going to put such a strict limit on Harvey's pitch count, but they don't want him to blow out his arm by any means.

5. Harvey Has Added Stability to the Mets' Rotation

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    At the start of the current season, the Mets' rotation consisted of Johan Santana, R.A. Dickey, Jon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Dillon Gee. As the season began, Pelfrey got hurt in April and needed Tommy John surgery, which immediately ended his season, and most likely, his career as a Met.

    The Mets struggled to find a dependable fifth starter in Pelfrey's absence for the rest of April and all of May. The first replacement starter was Chris Schwinden, but he pitched poorly and got sent to the minor leagues. The next two spot starters were the veteran Miguel Batista and rookie Jeremy Hefner. Neither of them established any form of consistency in the rotation.

    Batista has since been released and Hefner is now back in the bullpen as a long reliever. Hefner though did pitch well in his most recent start against the Padres.

    In June, the Mets finally got a fifth reliable starter when Chris Young made his return back to the major leagues after missing over a year thanks to yet another shoulder injury he endured. He has been a reliable presence in the rotation ever since.

    Throughout June, the Mets' rotation was quite consistent. However, things started to fall apart when Gee was diagnosed with a blood clot in his shoulder, which ended his season. Soon after the All-Star break, Santana injured his ankle and had a stint on the disabled list. Thankfully, Santana will return to action in the upcoming weekend against the Braves.

    However, the rotation is now stable once again thanks to Harvey's emergence, which will last the rest of the season. Assuming no one gets hurt going forward, the Mets are back to having five reliable arms in the rotation and hopefully, it will help them finish the year with a winning record, which they haven't had since 2008.

6. Harvey Works Well with Catcher Rob Johnson

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    When Harvey got called up recently, his Triple-A catcher Rob Johnson got re-called as well. This was big for both because Harvey has worked very well with Johnson. It's also big for Johnson in that he's on a major league roster instead of a minor league roster.

    Johnson started the season in Buffalo, but got called up in early May when Josh Thole suffered a concussion. He remained on the Mets' roster for the duration of the month until Thole was activated. Mike Nickeas remained the backup catcher.

    However, due to Nickeas' poor offensive numbers and the connection between Harvey and Johnson, it was logical for the Mets to bring up Johnson, who provides more offense between him and Nickeas. It also allowed the defensive-oriented Nickeas to work on his hitting in the minor leagues.

    It will be interesting to see what the Mets' catching situation will look like in 2013. The Mets seem to be satisfied with Thole remaining the primary starter, but will likely shop for a veteran right-handed hitting catcher to platoon with Thole.

    With Johnson's status of remaining a Met beyond this year not a guarantee, this could be critical later on to a young pitcher like Harvey, who has gotten so used to working with Johnson.

7. Harvey Has Already Learned How to Deal with the New York Media

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    With such little experience in professional baseball, it's quite remarkable that Harvey has already learned how to deal with the New York media, which is arguably the largest media market across the world.

    Dealing with the New York media isn't easy for everyone. Former Met Bobby Bonilla already proved this to be true. But Harvey has done very well with all his pregame and postgame interviews so far.

    Although he was seen slamming his glove in the dugout after being removed from his most recent start against the Padres, Harvey has kept his excitement, anger and all other emotions in check since his major league call-up.

8. Believe in Harvey's Hype

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    Going into the 2012 season, many people in the Mets' organization and even more of its fans were starting to get very excited at the possibility of seeing Harvey in a Mets uniform this year.

    The Mets have not had a pitching prospect with this much hype surrounding him since 1995 and 1996, when the three members of "Generation K" (Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson) all made their major league debuts. Unfortunately for them, none ended up living up to their hype as all three would suffer a string of major injuries after each of their debut seasons. Isringhausen later had a successful career as a closer for the Cardinals, but Pulsipher and Wilson both failed to be successful major league pitchers.

    Hopefully, Harvey's career will turn out a lot better than that of "Generation K". Assuming he stays healthy, he is a young pitcher with a tremendous amount of potential. One could even expect a potential NL Cy Young Award at some point in his career. He wowed the crowd during his major league debut with 11 strikeouts in 5.1 innings pitched, and will certainly get a big applause during his first start at Citi Field against the Braves.

    Believe in the hype of Matt Harvey because this kind of rookie hype does not come around all too often.

9. Harvey Is Already Familiar with New York City

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    Born and raised in New London, Connecticut, Harvey has lived in the New York metropolitan area all his life and is certainly not new to his current surroundings.

    Although New London is near the eastern tip of Connecticut, it's still close enough to be considered part of the New York metropolitan area. This happens to be very good for Harvey because while some players may need to make big adjustments in living in or near New York City, Harvey is already familiar with his surroundings.

    Driving around the city, finding places to eat, things to do during the rare days off, and dealing with fellow New Yorkers are all aspects that Harvey will have no trouble with. He fits in perfectly and the transitions many players would face are nearly non-existent for him.

    All in all, not having to adjust to life in New York is not something that Harvey will have to worry about, which is good because it will help him focus even more on pitching successfully for the Mets.

10. Harvey Is a Great Pitcher, but He's Only Going to Get Better

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    As the Mets' second highest prospect at the beginning of the season, the Mets have always had a of faith that Harvey would become a cornerstone to their rotation for years to come. The future is finally starting to emerge now, with Harvey entrenched into the Mets' rotation for the rest of the 2012 season.

    Harvey had as good of a debut as he could have wanted. He struck out 11 batters in 5.1 innings and got his first two major league hits at the plate in his first two at-bats. More importantly, the Mets won and he got his first major league win.

    Despite pitching well against the Giants in his second start, Harvey did not come out victorious, but he simply did not have his best stuff in his most recent start against the Padres. As a result, some may question whether Harvey is really going to live up to his billing.

    Simply put, Harvey is going to have a great career for the Mets. He may not be considered by most scouts as an ace pitcher, but he will certainly become one of the better pitchers in the league and one that will definitely become an All-Star at some point in his career, if not immediately.

    At best, Harvey will be a perennial All-Star, an NL Cy Young Award contender and will help lead the Mets to a championship within the next five years. The future duo of him and top prospect Zack Wheeler could definitely make this possibility more of a reality. However, there is also the chance that Harvey could end up getting injured and going through what ultimately ended the careers of two former highly touted Mets' pitching prospects in Bill Pulsipher and Paul Wilson. With a good track record of health so far, Harvey will hopefully not go down that path.

    Wheeler is ultimately going to become the Mets' ace when he gets called up to the major leagues for good, but Harvey will be as solid of a No. 2 starter as anyone in baseball by then. Here's to "Generation W" (the "W" represents wins) hopefully becoming a lot more successful than "Generation K" ever was.