Hunter Harvey and the Road to Baltimore
As the Minor League Baseball season nears its conclusion, the Baltimore Orioles are seeing some encouraging signs from a top prospect. Hunter Harvey, whose career has been sidetracked by injuries, has been back on the mound in recent weeks, and could build some momentum going into 2018.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
Harvey’s story is one that is familiar to anyone who follows the Orioles’ farm system. Chosen in the first round of the 2013 draft, the right-hander had a promising season at Low-A Delmarva in 2014 that was cut short by right flexor mass strain, the first in a series of injuries that ultimately sidelined him through the 2015 season. Last year, after beginning the season on the disabled list and returning for just five starts, Harvey underwent Tommy John surgery.
The recovery from Tommy John surgery is the latest development in Harvey’s career, and so far, the Orioles are proceeding with caution. He returned to the mound in July for his first of three outings in the Gulf Coast League before being promoted to Short Season-A Aberdeen. He is now back in Delmarva and all indications are that this will be his final stop in the 2017 season.
Thus far, Harvey has not pitched more than three innings in any of his starts. Pitch count data is not widely published in the minors, but the two games that we do have some record of—August 9 and August 22—show that he threw 35 and 41 pitches, respectively.
What is clear is that the Orioles are trying not to rush Harvey. The Orioles do not have much pitching depth to begin with, so any precaution that can keep Harvey healthy is one that the club should employ. The Baltimore Sun has previously reported that Harvey is not expected to be assigned to the Arizona Fall League, and is instead likely to be given “ a normal offseason.”
The extra rest will allow Harvey to have a normal offseason routine as he prepares for 2018. That particular season will be a big one for Harvey, and one that will say a lot about him and the Orioles’ plans for him going forward.
Since he has yet to pitch above Low-A, an assignment early in the year to High-A Frederick would seem to be a logical move. Regardless of his performance, he should get some time there to buildup strength and face a higher level of competition before a promotion to Double-A Bowie is completed.
From there, the biggest question on the minds of many will be whether Harvey could find himself in a position to join the Orioles as a late-season callup. For now, it is premature to definitely answer that. Though the Orioles have been waiting for Harvey to make a sustained return for years, it is worth remembering that he will enter the 2018 season as a young pitcher, as he is turning 23 in December. Additionally, his performance and stamina throughout the year are going to be factors.
Beyond that, of course, is where the Orioles will be as a team a year from now. This year has been something of a roller coaster and what the club will do with many of its key players over the offseason will say a lot about its expectations heading into the year. In order words, promoting Harvey to the majors late in the year to help a club on the verge of the playoffs is far different than bringing him to Baltimore for a few extra innings on a middling team.
The important thing for now is that Harvey has returned. The Orioles will need to be cautious to make sure he is not overworked and can gradually ease his way back from Tommy John surgery, but just as it has with Dylan Bundy, patience could pay off when it comes to Hunter Harvey.