For New York Mets fans yearning for a true young ace to lead the starting rotation to dominance, Matt Harvey is ready to answer the call.
It's been a while since the Mets possessed a promising pitcher primed for stardom, and most of those past stories (Dwight Gooden, Paul Wilson, Scott Kazmir, Mike Pelfrey) did not quite end happily ever after.
Over a decade has passed since the Mets carried a young arm in the majors with the upside to serve as a legitimate frontline starter for years. Hopefully history won't repeat itself with Harvey, a power arm with a full repertoire of pitches and the potential for greatness.
They're going to need him to contribute immediately in order to ease the blow of losing their first Cy Young winner since Gooden took home the honor in 1985.
R.A. Dickey reminded fans of the excitement attached to a nearly unhittable pitcher toying with offenses, but his magical season was followed up by the cold reality of baseball. It's a business, and the smart business move for the fourth-place Mets was to pawn the veteran for some building blocks.
Even during a lackluster season, Dickey captured the adoration of Flushing with a rousing season from the mound. The 38-year-old knuckleballer baffled the opposition enough to post a 2.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 230 strikeouts.
Dickey created a buzz in New York that lasted through the final two months, where any lingering postseason aspirations were naive and misconstrued. The Mets were out of it, but fans still eagerly anticipated the day Dickey took the mound.
Now that Dickey will take his talents to Canada, the Mets are back to square one. At least they have a young phenom capable of filling the void.
Matt Harvey: A New Hope
Selected with the No. 7 pick of the 2010 MLB draft, Harvey is part of a nucleus that New York will count on to lead a desolate squad back to prosperity. The 23-year-old certainly did not disappoint in his first taste of big league action.
Right out of the gate, the North Carolina product struck out 11 batters in five shutout innings during his debut. Considering this represented the Mets' most exciting pitching arrival since Pelfrey joined the club in 2006, nobody can blame Mets fans if they jumped for joy during a meaningless game in late July.
But before panicking at the sight of Harvey and Pelfrey together in the same sentence, take a deep breath. Harvey's first 10 starts trumped anything Pelfrey ever accomplished in a Mets uniform.
That initial outing was not an aberration, either. Hitters continued to swing at empty air against Harvey offerings. In 59.1 innings, Harvey fanned 70 batters and finished 2012 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
A small sample size? Absolutely, but the scouting report on Harvey suggests that the sky is the limit.
The Book on Harvey
One positive asset Harvey shares with Pelfrey is his size. At 6'4" and 225 pounds, Harvey enjoys a big frame that should help him become a workhorse.
Unlike Pelfrey, all those innings he eats up should amount to good results.
Not since Kazmir (who never actually got a chance to pitch in New York) has the team had such a fierce power arm at its disposal.
According to FanGraphs, Harvey's fastball clocked in at an average velocity of 94.6 miles per hour. His lively heater reached as high as 98 on the radar gun last year.
He also throws a wicked slider, which averaged out at 88.1 miles per hour with a sharp break. While neither his curveball nor changeup are highly prolific weapons yet, he's worked on them enough for them to turn into plus pitches down the road.
And for what it's worth, he's not terrible at the plate either.
The one area for concern is his control. His propensity for strikeouts allows him to get away with a few more free passes than most pitchers, but he can't fully operate as an All-Star while walking nearly four batters per nine innings.
Remember the Name
Let's face it, there aren't too many household names on this squad.
Everyone knows David Wright. Whether the Wilpons like it or not, he's the undisputed face of the franchise. Nobody else is signing sponsorships or appearing on late-night talk shows.
Johan Santana is still around, but this isn't the same Johan Santana who won two Cy Youngs with the Minnesota Twins (and should have earned at least one more in 2005) before trying his darnedest to prevent the Mets' monumental collapse in 2008.
After that, they got Ike Davis and Jonathon Niese, two budding talents who are important pieces but not superstars.
The new young guns of Harvey, Zack Wheeler, Travis D'Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard are the guys with five-star potential expected to bring excitement back to Queens. As the first one to get his feet wet in the majors, Harvey will become the group's de facto leader.
In due time, Harvey will become the second-most recognizable Met behind Wright, unless Wheeler or D'Arnaud later surpass him.
"It's Fun to Think..."
In addition to an assortment of plus pitches, Harvey also displays some sky-high confidence.
The youngster laid out some lofty expectations for the Mets' future rotation to Peter Botte of the New York Daily News.
It’s fun to think that you possibly can have a starting rotation similar to what the Braves had with (Greg) Maddux, (Tom) Glavine and (John) Smoltz. … That’s what we’re going to strive for, too. (Wheeler) wants to be the best, I want to be the best, and so does every other guy that’s dressing in this clubhouse.
Well that certainly sets the bar high. Considering that Maddux and Glavine both relied on impeccable control and pinpoint accuracy while Harvey and Wheeler overpower hitters, it's probably not the most apt comparison.
Also, who's the third guy for New York? Niese or Syndergaard?
So maybe Harvey got a little carried away. But after years of falling apart in September and finishing near the bottom of the NL East, maybe Mets fans deserve to get a little carried away for once.
Harvey's placing much of the pressure on himself to lead the charge in completing the Mets' rebuilding process, per Bottle's piece.
I want to prove that I belong in the big leagues and prove that I should be one of those top five guys all year.
This one may not be as big of a stretch. A few years from now, we could all be discussing Harvey's name among the game's top starting pitchers.