“Round Robinson”: Projecting the Rest of the Story (What’s Matt Harvey’s New Ceiling?)
In deciding how to rank the top 100 starting pitchers for 2015 back in February, I can’t think of a single one that was more of a headache to place than Matt Harvey. Sixteen months removed from Tommy John surgery, I had nothing more to go on than the optimism of the Mets’ front office and a poetic firsthand account from Harvey himself on his year away from baseball penned for The Players’ Tribune. In it, he said he felt great. But ALL returning TJS pitchers say they feel great. What else can they say? What else are they supposed to say? “I hope I’m good to go,” or “I’m a little iffy,” doesn’t get you back on a major league mound.
Harvey claimed to be ready for 2015, but I, like others, wasn’t so quick to return him to his lofty SP1 perch. In fact, Harvey barely managed to grab a spot in my top 20 for 2015, edging out names like Arrieta and Shields, which was tough to stomach due to my affinity for those two and others after them. My projections were conservative to say the least as, despite my belief in his ratio dominance (2.63 ERA, 1.08 WHIP), I had Harvey notching just 12 W and 168 Ks. Among the reasons I gave Harvey the nod in the top-20 was that I saw his upside as being greater than all those other names to follow and even a few whom he was slotted after. The chance, however small it may be, that the 2015 version looked anything at all like the pre-TJS model was enough for me to give him the benefit of the doubt.
That chance got substantially greater in March.
Harvey was dominant right from the outset of Spring Training. The control was there. The velocity was there. The nastiness was there. Everything that made Matt Harvey “Matt Harvey” looked to be on display right on through his exhibition finale when he tossed four scoreless frames against the best the Cardinals had to offer. In 22.2 Spring innings, he posted an ERA of 1.19 and gave up just 17 hits, all while maintaining a downright silly 21:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. His March exploits pushed him up draft boards and, by the time the first regular season pitch was thrown, Harvey found himself the #14 starting pitcher based on ADP (from FantasyPros.com).
I was still skeptical.
As good as he looked in Spring Training, I wanted to see what Harvey did when the lights came on and the games really counted. So far, in his first two starts, he hasn’t disappointed. After tossing six scoreless with nine strikeouts on April 9 in Washington, Harvey backed that up with a six-inning, eight strikeout performance in which he gave up three runs and only really struggled with Chase Utley. But Harvey got the win both times and has walked just one batter in 12 innings. Combined with his Spring stats, that means Harvey’s K:BB in 2015 is a ridiculous 38:2 and he currently sits fifth among all pitchers on both Yahoo! and ESPN’s player raters. His fastball has touched 100 MPH while averaging just south of 97 MPH, and Harvey has generated swings-and-misses on 53% of all fastballs thrown and 37% of all curveballs.
Everything here seems to be screaming that pre-TJS Harvey is back. Whether it’s his surface numbers or his underlying peripherals, there is nothing not to like. And don’t try to play the opposition card here either. Yes, the Nationals have been an average offense so far (T-14th in MLB in runs scored), and the Phillies are anemic (T-27th), but you knew what you were getting into when you invested in the NL East. There’s offensive futility to be had and exploited which will be the case all season long.
With a month and a half worth of information in front of us, it’s understandable why there are those who want to rush Harvey up the starting pitcher ranks even more, as far as the top ten. Based on what we know now, I think it’s fair to say a reexamination of his season-long projection is in order. Given what I’ve seen out of him, I’m prepared to estimate the following full-season numbers:
2.63 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 12 W, 182 K
Sound familiar? They should. Those are the exact same numbers for his ERA, WHIP and win total that I projected over two months ago. I gave him an extra 14 strikeouts for the hell of it, but I’m not budging off what I predicted based on a six weeks of game action. Why haven’t I changed course?
Because the Mets haven’t changed course.
New York is still going to be super cautious with their prized young arm knowing they aren’t going to be contending for anything beyond a wild card berth in 2015. If they feel the need to find a little extra time for Harvey between starts, they’re going to do it. And, despite what manager Terry Collins says, skipping a start here and there is still not out of the question, and I’d put money on it happening over it not happening.
Basically, don’t get carried away. Even the best estimates for Harvey’s 2015 workload still only have him pegged around the 185-190 IP mark. It’s very difficult to get top-10 starting pitcher value out of a guy who doesn’t throw 200+ innings, unless you’re Chris Sale, and I don’t think Matt Harvey is Chris Sale (at least not this year). You probably drafted Harvey as your SP2 or maybe even an SP3, and that’s where he should continue to be valued. If you’re looking to poach him off of another owner, now just isn’t the time to make the value play. The only way a move should be made is if you find that owner who’s been suckered in by the early season performance and is willing to give you a top-40 overall asset or better in return. Other than that, sit back and enjoy the ride, and don’t be surprised if you hit an occasional speed bump every now and then.
Not Everything Going Wright in New York
It looked as if the David Wright bounce back was in full effect after a strong first week that included a .333/.371/.424 triple slash, a home run and a pair of steals. That all came to a head on Tuesday when another setback struck the oft injured veteran. Wright had to leave the game with what appeared to be a right hamstring pull on an awkward slide trying to steal second in the eighth inning. On Wednesday, Wright was officially placed on the 15-day DL with a hamstring strain and GM Sandy Alderson is anticipating a three-week hiatus for the seven-time All-Star. Upon return, expect the Mets to be careful in their management of Wright’s health, meaning any hope for a return to mid-teens steals could be out the window.
Eric Campbell was called up from AAA-Las Vegas to fill the open roster spot after sporting a .550/.625/1.050 in six games with the Mets’ affiliate. His versatility made him the easy choice to replace Wright, as Campbell played six different positions in his 85 games with New York last season. He hit .263 in 211 PA, but most of that was hollow production as he had just three home runs, three steals and 16 runs batted in. This is an NL-only move only for those needing to get consistent at bats from a corner infielder.
First Pitch Swinging – News and Notes Around the Division
- Mets RP Jenrry Mejia was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol. What’s more, Alderson would not guarantee Mejia will have a roster spot when his suspension is up.
- Marlins SP Henderson Alvarez landed on the DL Monday with shoulder inflammation after his last start. The diagnosis means Alvarez is likely looking at missing a few weeks rather than a few months.
- Nationals OF Denard Span began a rehab assignment Tuesday at AA-Harrisburg. Span estimates he’ll need three weeks of minor league action before returning to Washington.
- Braves SP Mike Minor experienced discomfort while rehabbing his injured shoulder. The possibility of exploratory surgery still remains, per John Hart.
On Deck – What to Watch for April 17-23
Atlanta: @TOR(3), @NYM(3)
Miami: @NYM(3), @PHI(3)
New York: vs. MIA(3), vs. ATL(3)
Philadelphia: @WAS(3), vs. MIA(3)
Washington: vs. PHI(3), vs. STL(3)
Hitter to Watch – Travis d’Arnaud (NYM)
It’s a Mets-centric theme this week and we keep it rolling with the Amazin’s young catcher. The most intriguing takeaway from the David Wright injury might not be who replaces him, but how Collins adjusts his lineup in Wright’s absence. Travis d’Arnaud was bumped up to the two spot in the lineup Wednesday night against the Phillies and responded with 2-for-4 night and his first home run of the year. Should d’Arnaud stick there while Wright is shelved, his stock rises even further for a catcher who already has eight RBI in his first nine games. The Mets will get to pick on the back ends of the Marlins and Braves rotations and face just one daunting starter over the next week (J. Teheran). I like the endorsement given by Collins with this move, and those with fringe options behind the plate in mixed leagues should definitely look to see if d’Arnaud is still hanging around the wire.
Pitcher to Watch – Shelby Miller (ATL)
We finally move out of the Big Apple and take a trip to our neighbors to the north as the Blue Jays play host to the Braves this weekend. Shelby Miller is off to a fine start for his new team, having pitched a combined 10 innings against the Marlins in his first two turns as a Brave. Miller has given up just one run on seven hits while striking out five and got the win this past Monday against the fish. He faces a much stiffer test against the Blue Jays on Sunday and this start should serve as an early season barometer for Miller as he attempts to regain the form that made him a prized prospect in the Cardinals’ system. For those hesitant to start Miller against such a potent offense, I understand your concern. But, consider that in his only career start against Toronto last June, Miller tossed a three-hit shutout and retired the first 13 batters he faced. He’s a high risk/high reward option for those looking for a cheap DFS starter this weekend.
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