Officially back from Tommy John surgery, Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey returned to the mound in 2017 and seemed to pick up exactly where he left off. Rocking his best attempt at a serious mustache, Harvey gave the organization another glimpse at what once made him the team’s top prospect.
The sample size was small, only 18.2 innings; but considering Harvey started the year having only thrown 12.2 innings since 2014, the Orioles are gladly taking what they can get at this point.
Injuries, injuries, and more injuries
Ever since being drafted in the first round out of high school in 2013, Harvey has been spectacular... when he’s been healthy enough to pitch. It’s easy now to forget that he was once rated the #20 prospect in all of baseball prior to the 2015 season by Baseball Prospectus. Since that lofty ranking however, Harvey has faced a litany of injuries.
After impressing the Orioles’ coaching staff in 2015 Spring Training as a 20-year-old, Harvey took a comebacker to the leg in minor league camp and shattered his fibula. When he finally returned to throwing later that year, some old elbow issues cropped up and he was shut down for the year before throwing a single regular season inning. Harvey planned to have Tommy John surgery that fall, until a visit to Dr. James Andrews led to him resting the elbow instead.
It turned out to be the wrong decision considering Harvey wound up having the elbow surgery the following July. Naturally, it wasn’t until after he first missed a few months with a groin injury and then a sports hernia surgery. Saying health has been Harvey’s main issue to this point would be an understatement.
Back on the mound
After finishing his rehab from Tommy John surgery, Harvey started making his first professional appearances this past July for the Gulf Coast League Orioles. After three scoreless appearances in which he struck out six and walked zero over five innings, Harvey got the bump up to Aberdeen. He didn’t last long there either.
After a scoreless run in the Gulf Coast League, Harvey kept it going up in Harford County. He made two appearances for the IronBirds over five more scoreless innings. In Aberdeen, Hunter allowed one hit, walked three, and struck out 10. It was good enough for another promotion to Delmarva where he finished out the year. In his third and final start for Delmarva, Harvey finally allowed two runs in what turned out to be his last inning pitched in 2017.
In total between three levels, Harvey allowed two runs over 18.2 innings for a tidy ERA of 0.96. Most impressively, Harvey struck out 30 and walked just six. After spending so much time away from baseball, Harvey took seemingly no time getting back to controlling his mid-90’s fastball. He was dominating Class A hitters once again.
After everything Hunter Harvey has been through, it’s easy to forget that he’s still just 22 years old. After finishing in Delmarva, he has entered the off-season healthy for the first time as a professional baseball player. That alone is an important step in his return. While there are definitely those in the organization that could see Harvey helping the big league club at the end of 2018, his health remains the number one concern.
It will be interesting to see where the various outlets place Harvey among the Orioles’ top prospects when the lists come out prior to next season. His injury history definitely brings with it some justified doubts, but Harvey was utterly dominant this summer while flashing everything that made him the Orioles’ top prospect going into 2015.
I’m trying really hard not to get too excited about Hunter Harvey. I know once I do, his arm is bound to fall off in some sort of freak accident. That just comes with the territory as an Orioles fan. But that being said, there’s a reason Harvey was ranked in Baseball Prospectus’s top-60 prior to 2014, 2015, and 2016. He’s a serious talent, which is rare in the Orioles organization, specifically on the mound.
Harvey is going to be fun to watch rise through the ranks in 2018, just knock on some wood that he can stay healthy. Because if he can, a September call-up next season is certainly in the cards. Bundy made it back after all of his injury concerns, now it’s Harvey’s turn. Maybe in 2019 the Orioles can finally get the top of the rotation they envisioned after taking Bundy, Gausman, and Harvey at the top of consecutive drafts.