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Hunter Harvey, top/only Orioles pitching prospect, needs Tommy John surgery

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Hunter Harvey’s arm is as messed up as you might have feared. The top Orioles pitching prospect needs Tommy John surgery, which he’ll get next week.

The verdict has finally come down on Hunter Harvey’s arm. The news is not good for the Orioles pitching prospect. After consulting with Dr. James Andrews, Harvey will now be undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 26.

This news has been something to fear since basically two years ago, when Harvey was shut down in his first full professional season due to what at the time was called a right elbow strain. Various other problems have plagued Harvey ever since then, like missing time when he took a line drive off his leg in spring training last year, and missing time this year because of a groin strain.

Was the arm a ticking time bomb all along, with the other injury problems only delaying this realization? Did the Orioles do something wrong with Harvey to cause him to damage his arm while he was rehabbing from other injuries? Or was it all simply bad luck?

These are questions for which there may be no forthcoming answers, although you certainly can’t help but wonder if there could have been something different.

Harvey, the O’s first round pick from 2013 (22nd overall) is not only the top Orioles pitching prospect but he’s almost the only Orioles pitching prospect, so it’s a tough break not just for him but for the O’s system as well. Had he stayed healthy, there might have been hopes that he could compete for a rotation spot in the not-too-distant future.

Even with the various injury problems he’s had, his raw talent was still enough for the prospect-industrial complex to consistently rank him among the top 100 prospects in baseball, as high as #58 according to Baseball Prospectus prior to this season.

Now, it will probably be until 2018, assuming Harvey is successfully able to rehab from the surgery, before Harvey can get back to pitching at a level commensurate with his talent and development to date. Best of luck to him in getting back there.

If there’s any silver lining here, it’s that Harvey is still relatively young at age 21, so if he can come back from the surgery there’s still some good years there, even if he’ll probably be 23 before he even makes it to High-A. He won’t get to be some young phenom in the big leagues, but if he develops, his peak years should be helping out the Orioles.

Unlike the last Orioles prospect to need Tommy John surgery - Dylan Bundy - there’s no major league contract to force him onto the 25-man roster any time soon.

Looking a bit farther down the road, the O’s will have to add Harvey to the 40-man roster following the 2017 season in order to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. They’ll still have three option years remaining from there to allow Harvey to develop appropriately. They won’t have to rush him for that reason.

Harvey wasn’t going to be helping the 2016 O’s and likely not the 2017 O’s regardless of this development, nor is it very likely he was going to be traded before this trade deadline, so the impact on the current season is basically 0. Just one of those things that makes O’s fans go, “Dang, can’t we ever catch a break?” Not this time.