Mets phenom Harvey takes next shot against Pirates
Leading up to Major League Baseball's 2010 draft, outfielder Bryce Harper, pitcher Jameson Taillon and shortstop Manny Machado were locked in as the first three picks.
“After that there wasn't a lot of consensus where guys should go,” Baseball America executive editor and ESPN contributor Jim Callis said.
As expected, Washington took Harper. The Pirates plucked Taillon from a Texas high school and Baltimore took Machado. Among the “after that” was Matt Harvey, a big fireballer from the University of North Carolina who went seventh to the Mets. Less than three years later, Harvey, who is scheduled to face the Pirates on Sunday at Citi Field, is making big news in the Big Apple.
In his previous start Tuesday against the White Sox, the 24-year-old right-hander pitched nine shutout innings, yielding only an infield single. He struck out 12 and walked none as the Mets won in the 10th, 1-0. In seven starts this season he is 4-0 with a 1.28 ERA, 53 strikeouts and 12 walks in 49 1⁄3 innings.
Harvey foreshadowed his big league talent in 2012 with a 2.73 ERA and 70 strikeouts in 59 1⁄3 innings.
“I was lucky enough that he was sitting there when we had the seventh pick,” said Rudy Terrasas, the Mets' scouting director at the time. “So far, so good.”
Meanwhile, Pirates fans waiting for Taillon, who is progressing nicely in the minors, probably should avoid second-guessing.
“Ask the 30 teams who they considered the best pitching prospect in the draft and 30 teams will tell you Jameson Taillon,” Callis said.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said in an e-mail, “Simply stated, we liked Matt a lot but we liked Jameson more, selected him and are excited about his future. Matt has certainly developed into a great young pitcher and we believe Jameson has a great future as well.”
Many scouts and draft experts, such as Callis, were not wildly enthused with Harvey before and even after the Mets grabbed him. “The Mets selection. . . .of Matt Harvey at No. 7 was viewed as a sound pick in that he has a plus fastball and good breaking pitches, and has apparently refined his mechanics, which were a mess a year ago,” The New York Daily News reported.
The News quoted an unnamed scout as saying, “Still needs to work on his command of his secondary pitches, but once he does, he could come fast.”
Harvey has developed a wicked slider to complement a fastball that averages 95 mph, second in MLB to the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg, according to Fangraphs. His curve and changeup are coming along.
Before the draft, the New York Post quoted Callis as saying Harvey had “a solid chance to end up as a reliever.” Callis said he did not recall the exact quote, but he acknowledged that Harvey's first two seasons at North Carolina were below expectations. He wasn't the only one who believed that.
“He came to North Carolina as a guy who was supposed to be one of the best high school players and he didn't live up to it,” Callis said. “He was up and down. I do remember thinking that this guy just hasn't had consistent success.”
But after that, “He just kept getting better and better,” Callis said.
Harvey was the third college pitcher taken behind Drew Pomeranz at No. 5 (Indians) and Barret Loux at No. 6 (Diamondbacks). Cleveland traded Pomeranz to Colorado for Ubaldo Jimenez in 2011, and he is looking good in Triple-A. Arizona did not sign Loux because of arm problems. He signed with Texas as a free agent and was traded to the Cubs. He is struggling in Triple-A.
Another collegian, Chris Sale, went 13th to the White Sox. In 2012, his first full season, Sale was 17-8 with a 3.05 ERA. He made the All-Star team and finished sixth in Cy Young Award balloting.
“I thought that was the guy who should have been the No. 4 pick,” said Callis, who called 2010 “a weird year for college pitchers.”
Terrasas, who was fired from his post later in 2010 and now scouts professional teams for the Mets, said he saw Harvey pitch about four times in college.
“He wasn't as polished as he is now, but you're dealing with a 21-year-old and looking for an arsenal, the stuff, and you hope you can shape it and mold it and hope it goes over the plate,” he said. “There's issues with everybody.
“We gave (the Mets) a pitcher that had good stuff,” Terrasas said. “But like anybody else, whether it's Taillon (or 2011 Pirates first-round pick Gerrit) Cole, there's some refinement that's needed. . . .The main thing is the type of guy (Harvey) is. He's really dedicated. He's a competitor. He's a guy that wants to be the best and he brings that into the equation. With his stuff, it's a pretty good combination.”