5 Reasons Matt Harvey Will End Up as the New York Mets Ace by Mid-Season
It didn't take long for Matt Harvey to move up the ranks in the New York Mets organization.
The next challenge for the 23-year-old right-hander is to rise to the occasion and become the team's No. 1 starting pitcher. We're not even close to getting into the meat of the 2013 schedule—simply tasting grapefruit juice now—but what's evident is that Harvey is making the right moves and putting himself in prime position to be the ace.
Five internal and external factors will fuel his success in the Mets' first 81 games.
Fewer Competitors Within the Rotation
To be the best, you have to beat the best. That piece of coaching chalk talk doesn't really apply here because the best pitcher on the Mets is no longer with the Mets. After surprising the Tri-State Area and the rest of the baseball world by winning the 2012 National League Cy Young Award, R.A. Dickey packed his bags and took his act to Toronto.
Left behind in Flushing is another former Cy Young trophy holder; however, Johan Santana is a shell of his former self. Sure, he gave Mets fans a moment to remember (who could ever forget the Gary Carter jersey and jorts wearing guy?) when he threw the franchise's first ever no-hitter. But there isn't much upside to be had here.
Santana showed up to Mets camp noticeably out of shape, and the team's brass has essentially given up on the idea that he'll come anywhere close to delivering on the $137.5 million contract they were foolish to give him.
Harvey was a standout at the University of North Carolina where, during his career, he went 22-7 with a 3.73 ERA in 238.2 innings. He was able to effectively leverage his NCAA experience, making it to the bigs a little more than two years after the Mets drafted him.
In doing so, he proved the scouts right when they said he could quickly move up the Mets ladder because of his college background. He developed an arsenal with high-strikeout potential, as evidenced by his average of 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors and then 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings in his 10 major league starts last year.
Fine-Tuning His Weapons
According to Baseball America, Harvey has some good stuff to work with. After the 2010 season, he was rated as having the best curveball in the Mets system. The following season, he was considered to have the best slider.
Fast forward to 2012, and the curveball wasn't all that effective for him. You don't get better by working on your strengths; improvement comes from addressing weaknesses. And that's what Harvey is doing now.
“Last year, coming up to the big leagues I didn’t have my curveball all that often,” he told the New York Daily News. “That was really something I wanted to start throwing a lot more, and right now it’s almost right where I want it. I threw a few really good ones today, and didn’t really feel like I threw many bad ones.”
Manager Terry Collins is impressed with the young man’s approach to honing his craft. “I think he's going about it the right way, which is, 'Hey, I've got to refine my stuff and get my stuff ready,'" Collins said to MLB.com.
Takes Good Care of Himself
Eat right and exercise. It’s amazing how few people—even professional athletes—put these basic tenets of life into practice.
Harvey, according to a recent article in the New York Times, is trying to do all he can to take care of his body so it takes care of him. While carbs and fats can taste great, they sabotage efforts to achieve peak levels of fitness. So, Harvey has been trying to cut these out of his diet as much as possible, while taking in more fruits and vegetables.
“I’m a pretty serious guy,” Harvey said. “I pick my times to have fun, but I take things—life, my diet, my workouts—pretty seriously. This is a job, and I want to make sure I can do it for a long time.”
Willing to Learn from Peers
Another quality of a consummate professional is a willingness to learn by studying those who are successful. For Harvey, a suitable model has been Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, a former Most Valuable Player in the American League, who also has a no-hitter on his resume.
Recently, Harvey got to see Verlander up close and personal when the Mets took on the Tigers in a Grapefruit League matchup. Verlander dominated, throwing three perfect innings, even while reining in his fastball to a speed in the low-90s.
"It was kind of cool to watch," Harvey told the Newark (N.J.) Star-Ledger. "He's one of the best…Me being a person who wants to be the best, you watch something like that."