Analysis: Matt Harvey

With the 7th overall selection in the draft, the Mets chose Mystic, CT resident, Scott Boras client, and North Carolina Tar Heel Matt Harvey.

Was it a good pick? Who knows? There have been some comparisons to Mike Pelfrey, which I don’t get — at least, not based on the video I’ve seen.

Generally, it’s difficult to analyze a player on video alone. But, I didn’t have the opportunity to trek down to Chapel Hill this spring to see Harvey in person (strangely, Rudy Terrasas did not invite me to his cross-check — go figure). So my amateur analysis will have to be based on two youTube videos.

First, this video from May 2009, which you may have seen a few days ago here:

This video scares me. What I see is a kid who is simply throwing — and using his arm almost exclusively to put mustard on the ball. He is standing straight up throughout the delivery, and not taking advantage of his tall (6’4″) frame and all the benefits of leverage, gravity, and stride length that could come with it. All the pressure is on his shoulder and arm speed, coupled with upper body rotation, but little if any power from the lower body.

Now, a more recent video from this past May — and almost exactly a year to the day after the previous video:

In this video it appears as though he made some slight adjustments to his motion — namely, it looks like he made a conscious effort to try to incorporate his lower body a bit and also use his height (what Nolan Ryan calls “tall and fall”). He bends over a bit more at release and in the follow through, which is a start, but it doesn’t look like he’s really using his legs to drive off the mound. On some pitches, he over-rotates a bit, resulting in a follow-through that reminds me somewhat of John Maine — whereby his head is tilted and body moving toward first base. But that’s only occasionally; most of the time he seems to be getting his momentum going toward home plate.

Bottom line is that Harvey has an electric arm — a god-given ability to make his hand and arm move faster than most mortals in propelling a baseball. Generally that’s all a scout cares about, but as a pitching coach / instructor, my concern is using the entire body to not only help with velociy but also with the deceleration of the arm. If Harvey were my student, I’d work on him extending the stride and collapsing the front knee to transfer some of the stress of acceleration and deceleration from the upper body to the lower body; as it is now he usually “cuts off” the follow-through, which puts considerable strain on the shoulder.

It is possible to “fix” this issue and improve his mechanics — especially since he appears to already be working toward a more efficient delivery. This kind of a power arm is rare, so it’s understandable why the Mets drafted him. With the right guidance, he could develop into a seriously nasty flamethrower some day.

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Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. Walnutz15 June 10, 2010 at 12:01 pm
    Pelfrey comparisions for Harvey are going to come from the Mets only. They'll want you to believe he's on par with the type of pitcher he was, coming out of Wichita State. (Untrue.)

    This kid strikes me as "Phil Humber-2" — and is well on his way to Rice Syndrome….you know, the disease that took over Wade Townsend and Humber's careers?

  2. Walnutz15 June 10, 2010 at 12:02 pm
    Even still, I'd place Harvey on a lower-plane – coming out of college than Pelfrey, or even Heilman at that stage. Both guys impressed me more with their resumes, and subsequent scouting reports. Neither of these guys needed 158-pitches, or any of the higher ones we've seen from Harvey – throughout the course of their collegiate career. Makes me wonder why everyone keeps harping on how hard he threw on his 158th pitch….as if it's some sort of positive. Chances are, if it keeps up – he won't be throwing with any sort of velocity for too long.

    Just my $0.02. He's "one of ours" now — and hopefully, he learns a thing or 6 within our minor league system. Last thing I want to see is another incomplete pitcher rushed to The Bigs with just a fastball — simply because he was a #1 Pick.

  3. isuzudude June 10, 2010 at 12:44 pm
    I'm not making any projections as far as what type of pitcher I think Harvey can/will develop into. However, based on the 2nd video, I would say his delivery reminds me a lot of Rich Harden.
  4. Kevin June 10, 2010 at 1:52 pm
    That deceleration is bad news… But you'd think the Mets would already have a plan for working that out. Then again, if this kid has been throwing 100-130 pitches a game for a couple of years, then… ouch?
  5. MikeTomaselli June 10, 2010 at 2:05 pm
    Joe I'm glad you said that he does not use his lower body well. because that was my first reaction when I saw the top video. I thought he was too vertical. Maybe I'm learning some things from you :-D

    I like the pick because he is projectable and has already worked hard to fix a "mechanical flaw" which we can only assume is the lower half issue you talked about.

    Thanks for this Joe