Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Matt Harvey Is Untouchable; On The Field And Hopefully Off Of It

The Mets have a phenom on their hands.  A guy who is thought to be as close to a sure thing prospect that their could be.  His intangibles are through the roof and his baseball instincts are better than most ten year veterans.  That player is Travis d'Arnaud.  They also have a pitching prospect who is supposed to be lights out.  He can hit high 90s on the radar gun and his secondary pitches are developing quite nicely.  He is something that other teams covet when talking to the Mets about trades.  He is Zach Wheeler.

If the Mets have these two no doubt prospects, then what is so special about Matt Harvey?  We only have a small sample size.  What can thirteen games say about a player's career?  Well, from history it says that it shows us nothing.  There were many players who came onto the scene with a bang and lost it as quickly as they had it.

You can go all the way back to Mark Fidrych.  His rookie season consisted of four complete game shutouts, a 19-4 record and the kind of charisma that the Tigers were looking for.  The rest of his career consisted of three years and a whole lot of injuries.  There is Rick Ankiel who went from the savior to the Cardinals rotation, to a guy who completely forgot where the strike zone is.  In the 2000 playoffs he walk eleven batters in four innings.  That was over three games.  Ankiel is now an outfielder.  Oliver Perez looked like he could be the next ace to bring the Pirates out of the doldrums of baseball, but he ended up just taking the Mets money and walking everyone in sight.  Dontrelle Willis had some of the best stuff baseball has ever seen, but he had mental conditions that put so much stress on himself that he pitched himself out of baseball.  Then there are Mark Prior and Kerry Wood.  Thought to be the saviors of a floundering Cubs franchise, Prior and Wood brought the Cubs back into the public eye.  Injuries and public pressure ended up being too much for the duo and both are already seemingly retired without a substantial mark on the league they were supposed to dominate together. 

So how is Matt Harvey different from these players?  Harvey does not have an injury history of any kind.  He doesn't ever seem to be in pain and seems to take care of himself.  He has pitched well in any big spot he was put in, so the pressure doesn't seem to be a problem for him.  He grew up in the area (well Connecticut, but still) so he knows how the New York media can be, it won't be something that surprises him.  His only issue is finding the strike zone, at times.  That is something that, yes, can hurt his entire career, but every great pitcher doesn't have perfect control coming out of the minors.  Justin Verlander, considered by most to be the best pitcher in baseball, started his career with a strikeout to walk ratio hovering around two for the first three years.  Now he has doubled that.  Great pitchers get more comfortable with the major league strike zone. 

What keeps Harvey head and shoulders above normal prospects is his pitches.  Most flamethrowers will beat players with straight heat.  They have fastball/changeup combination and that is how they beat the hitters they face.  That is why most pitchers don't fair as well their second time facing a team.  Harvey could face you one game and take you out with his 98 mile-per-hour fastball then take you down with a changeup.  You could come up next time and see one of the nastiest sliders in the game, or he could even hit you with his newly improved curveball.  Harvey has four plus pitches and, if you add his velocity, he may be the perfect pitcher.  He can confuse you with changing speeds or make you think the ball is going to be where it isn't.  He can be what they call a "thrower" and he can also be a "pitcher".  Harvey is the total package.

The Mets cannot part with Harvey in any of the rumored deals that are out there.  Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Gonzalez are both great players.  They can both do so much for this team that as the roster is constructed now they don't have.  The offense could definitely be a boost, but it isn't worth the price of Harvey.  Wheeler and dArnaud are as close to sure thing prospects as can be, but we've seen hundreds of sure things fizzle out as quickly as they rose up.  Harvey has proven he is dominant against professional hitters.  Last year he showed glimpses of his greatness, but this year he has blown everyone away.  In his three starts he has allowed six hits.  In case you are reading this quickly that said HITS not runs.  He has an ERA of 0.82 and a WHIP of 0.55.  Those are both pretty good stats.  Even better, he is 3-0 with 25 strikeouts against six walks.  He has twice as many strikeouts as he does base runners.  This isn't the kind of stud you trade when he is 24 and the Mets have control of him for another couple years.  There is no rush to trade this guy.  I do not want to downplay the talent of Stanton and Gonzalez, but there are just more top flight sluggers than there are starting pitchers.  An ace the caliber of Matt Harvey may come once a decade.  There is excitement in Queens for a kid that hasn't been felt since Dwight Gooden was throwing fastballs in the mid-80s.  I am pretty sure that this one will end a lot better than that whole saga. 

Keep Matt Harvey a Met.  He is the known commodity you have.  He is the future face of your dwindling franchise.  If you can get a Stanton or Gonzalez for Wheeler and d'Arnaud then jump on it.  They are both prospects.  If they ask you to add Harvey then you need to politely decline.  Harvey is a pro.  This guy has the ability to hold down your rotation for the next decade, if not more.  Wheeler could be great, or he could end up on the scrap heap.  Harvey is no one-hit wonder.  He is the real deal.  You don't ever, under any circumstances, get rid of the real deal.

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