May 21, 2014
Behind the Curtain
Every offseason, we publish our team top 10 lists. These don’t just drive traffic to the site; they drive debate and discussion with our readers. Concurrently, we often publish companion pieces that pull back the curtain on our own Socratic scouting, revealing our internal debates, discussion, disagreements, and often-terse tete-a-tetes. As it turns out, voyeurism can be valuable, as some of these articles eclipsed the shine and popularity of the lists they formed the skeletons of. With each subsequent team release, questions were asked about the companion pieces featuring the internal dialogue. Our audience had spoken.
In the hopes of satisfying your desire to see our process undress and perform lewd acts in public, we are introducing a new series to show how varied our individual opinions can actually be, how the Baseball Prospectus brand doesn’t suggest one voice and one opinion. Based on reader suggestions and our own internal debates, we want to continue to pull back the curtain on our process, taking one subject and two parties and reinforcing the truism that we all see the game through a unique lens shaped by our own subjective experiences. When disagreements come to light—be it over scouting or player development—we will take that subject and show multiple sides to the argument for your reading pleasure.
Scouting isn’t a binary enterprise and we don’t intend to play into that construct by offering black and white proclamations that are forever bound to the moment. But we do intend to offer thoughtful scouting opinions based on our own eyewitness takes, even if they run contrary to popular opinion on the site or elsewhere, and we reserve the right to be flexible with our thoughts. Our goal with this series is to show how much you can actually learn by looking at the other side of arguments, keeping the door open to alter your process or prognostications based on these disputes and disagreements. We hope you enjoy. –Jason Parks
Debate topic: Hunter Harvey, RHP, Orioles (Low-A Delmarva)
You have both put eyes on Hunter Harvey this season. Please describe your thoughts after seeing him, complete with scouting grades and projections.
I loved seeing Harvey throw. The mechanics are solid. The frame came straight from the build-a-stud factory. The stuff is very good. He pounds the strike zone with an idea of how to mix location and subtly manipulate his pitches. He can sink or cut his fastball (even though the org frowns on the cutter). He can drop a curve in the zone or bury it the dirt for a chase pitch. I only saw the changeup in one inning but I think it’s going to be a very useful pitch; it spins hard out his hand and is very deceptive.
His physical improvement will come as his frame adds weight and durability. His fastball might add some velocity but the improvement will come as he learns to command it better. Throwing to his arm side was no problem, but reaching out to his glove side left something to be desired. If the Orioles let him unleash his cutter it’s going to be awesome to watch.
He saved his cambio for the last inning, but I got a fair look at it. It's a good pitch that will get better. Loved that it spun hard and had some fade right at the end.
He has the mentality of a big leaguer. He is focused on the mound and pitches without fear. He ramps it up when the situation calls for it. Nothing gets under his skin. It's a more controlled intensity than somebody like Jon Gray.
For me he's a no. 3 (or 2 at best) who will have moments of shoving when the lights are brightest. My one hangup on him is a very technical scouting term: I never had an "oh sh*t" moment watching him throw. This is not an ace but there are only seven or eight of those on the planet. A no. 3 starter who can pitch like a 2 when it matters is still a highly valuable player for an organization.
I can't put a 7 on anything with Harvey.
Before laying eyes on Hunter Harvey, I did not do any background work. I wanted to go in with a clean slate.
In warm-ups, Harvey showed off extreme arm strength as he and Lucas Giolito’s long toss pairings crossed paths in center field. His frame is beautiful as he is every bit of 6-foot-3 with broad shoulders and a thick waist. He can add plenty of lean muscle and added strength will come as he fully matures. Harvey is very athletic and I project him to keep this athleticism as he grows. He stays tall in his delivery and generates easy velocity from clean shoulder and hip rotation with a fast arm action coming through. A medium high leg creates good momentum and he stays balanced upon delivering the baseball. Harvey lands slightly on the third-base side of home, creating a crossfire action and giving him deception in his delivery as he hides the ball a long time until it explodes out of his hand. The mechanics and delivery are easy and repeatable. He uses his tall frame to create good downhill plane and stays over top of his pitches.
His fastball sits in a velocity band of 90-95. The ball explodes with arm-side life in a 93-95 band, while he can cut it at 90-92. He manipulates the pitch and uses all four quadrants exceptionally well for how young he is. With added strength, we could see Harvey's sitting velocity reach a bit higher, and with his ability to manipulate and spot the pitch it could end up a plus-plus offering.
Harvey's curveball is thrown at slider velocity in 78-82 range. The pitch has tight spin and features hard 11-to-5 shape. It has good depth and shows hard vertical action with two-plane break. Harvey keeps the wrist loose and really snaps the breaker. Harvey can throw it for a strike on the glove side and a chase pitch in the dirt. It's a true power-breaking hammer. It’s already plus, and with more effective use within the zone and a fastball velocity tick, the curveball projects plus-plus for me.
Harvey's changeup is behind his other pitches but not by much. It's thrown 82-86, but best in the 82-83 range. It features late arm-side fade with vertical action but can get firm and lose effectiveness at higher velocity. The easy arm action and loose wrist (noted from curveball) can improve depth and deception as Harvey matures. Presently a fringe-average pitch, it is a work in progress. For the change up to play to its full potential, Harvey will need to command within the strike zone, making it more effective as a chase pitch. I trust the development of Harvey and feel comfortable projecting the pitch to be plus.
He’s more of a thrower than a complete pitcher. But his demeanor and killer mentality are noticeable. It's not inappropriate; it’s that fire I want to see in a pitcher. With improvement to his command within the strike zone, all of his pitches will play to their full potential; all will be swing-and-miss offerings. With added strength, the fastball velocity could sit higher, making his off speed even more effective (which I think will happen). He shows feel for mixing pitches but there is still work to be done with his pitchability. He's a long way away so the risk is high, but I project Harvey to be a 7; a no. 2 starter when all said and done.
Question for Ryan: Do you think CJ is too high on the arsenal projection based on the characteristics you've observed, or would you say that the difference is minor? I ask for clarity because I think there is a big difference between two 7s and two 6s.
Ryan Parker: The projection was too high. Slapping a 7 on something means it is elite. The fastball is good but from a pure velocity point it’s not worth a 7. Movement-wise, it’s close but again not a 7. I like the command but again not enough to warrant a 7. Harvey is going to be a guy who sits 92-93. How many of those guys get 7's for the fastball grade? He will be able to bump it up higher but I don't see his velocity rising to the 96+ range.
CJ Wittmann: Okay I can understand that and I agree that, speaking from strictly a velocity standpoint, Harvey's fastball is not a 7. But like I said previously, I can see Harvey adding good weight and strength and we could see the velocity sit 94-96. And with the way Harvey manipulates the pitch (arm-side life, cut at lower velocity) and the command profile getting to plus, it would profile as a 7 pitch for me.
Ryan Parker: Fastball he can manipulate two ways; breaking ball he can throw in and out of the zone; changeup that will get big leaguers out; holds runners; doesn't get flustered; understands his own mechanics.
I mean if I just gave you that as a snapshot you would say that's polished right?
CJ Wittmann: I agree with this 100 percent about Harvey’s easy feel for his mechanics. That's the reason I believe with added strength his fastball velocity will sit higher. The clean, easy, repeatable delivery with added strength to the frame and the fast arm speed. This kid could be a monster who will get people solely using his fastball.
CJ Wittmann is an author of Baseball Prospectus. Follow @CJWittJr