Back on June 6, 2013, Orioles GM Dan Duquette selected a young pitcher out of Bandys High School in Catawba, N.C., named Hunter Harvey with the No. 22 overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft. It was Duquette’s second No. 1 pick in his tenure as GM of the Orioles. The previous year, Duquette selected a big, strapping right-hander from LSU named Kevin Gausman with the No. 4 pick.
Going back on our brief time-machine visit, Duquette’s predecessor, Andy MacPhail, went with the best high school pitcher in the land, Dylan Bundy, with the No. 4 pick in 2011.
Sadly, those three names and their shortcomings while in black and orange were the real determinant in the fact that no American League pennants are flying in Baltimore from the Buck Showalter-Dan Duquette era. And when I say “their shortcomings,” I am not giving a hall pass to the organization.
Clearly, selecting talent is hugely important in order to feed your system with the stuff needed to build up a strong and consistent winning mojo. But maybe even more important is having the ability to carry the kids successfully across the Rubicon to being productive players.
Bundy, Gausman and Harvey have different reasons for their lack of success here. In Bundy’s case, it was injuries and a contract that forced the Orioles to bring him up to the big leagues with hardly any developmental time. Gausman’s story had nothing to do with injuries, but like Bundy, the Orioles decided they needed Gausman in the big leagues and short-circuited his development.
We all know what the Orioles got in return for first Gausman in a 2018 trade with the Atlanta Braves, who also cooperated by taking the last 1.5 seasons of Darren O’Day’s contract. It does look as if the Orioles may have lucked out a bit in getting left-hander Bruce Zimmermann, who may just be something after all. To date, Zimmermann has tossed 9.0 innings in spring training with a 0.00 ERA and a 0.44 WHIP.
For Bundy, the Orioles got four arms from the Los Angeles Angels. It’s too early to judge the totality of the deal, and in fairness to O’s GM Mike Elias, he couldn’t have known there would be a shutdown of the minors. Time will tell what the Orioles get out of the four pitchers acquire in that deal with the Angels. Isaac Mattson is the furthest along. Kyle Bradish, Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek will all pick up their various development paths this summer.
That brings us back to the name in the title — Hunter Harvey. He had the stuff both physically and genetically; he is the son of Bryan Harvey, a terrific closer who had 177 saves with the California Angels (1987-1992) and Florida Marlins (1993-1995).
This latest injury, an oblique, is essentially costing Harvey at least the first two months of the regular season, as the O’s have placed him on the 60-day injured list. But this is no longer a kid who has just had an injury or two in his first three seasons. Harvey has now been part of the organization since 2013. After promising partial seasons in ‘13 and ’14, during which he totaled 25 starts and 113 innings, Harvey missed the latter part of 2014 with elbow issues. Those issues persisted, and he missed the entire 2015 season.
He made just five starts in 2016, missing time due to sports hernia surgery and later Tommy John surgery. He was able to come back for the last portion of the 2017 season, long enough to make eight short starts and throw18.2 spectacular innings. His ERA was 0.96, his WHIP was 0.91 and he also struck out 30 hitters.
But, frankly, that pitcher never really came back fully to the mound. In 2018 with Double-A Bowie, Harvey suffered a freakish dislocated shoulder injury while trying to avoid a foul ball in the dugout. Then in 2019, when he was struggling as he had in 2018, the club made the decision that the bullpen was the place for him. It was both determined and hoped that more short stints would make it easier for him to stay healthy.
But so far in his Orioles big-league career, Harvey has thrown just 15 total innings to an ERA of 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.13. He is 1-2 with no saves and 17 strikeouts.
This was the guy most media and fans had proclaimed would be the Orioles closer this year. Really? Yes, really. Unlike the Gausman situation where health never played into his shortcomings, Harvey has had a boatload of injuries, but he has also suffered a little bit, too, by the club’s need to salvage something meaningful out of someone who probably should have been forced to really prove major-league readiness with statistical proof.
I am not saying to get rid of Harvey. What I am saying is the club now needs to proceed with much lower expectations for what his career can ultimately be.
In the meantime, another Orioles pitching prospect, Zach Pop, was due to come back from Tommy John surgery this year. Originally acquired in the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Pop was eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this offseason. He was not protected on the O’s 40-man roster going into the Winter Meetings and was quickly selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the No. 6 pick of the draft. Ironically, the Orioles picked up Mac Sceroler from the Cincinnati Reds with the No. 5 pick.
Pop would immediately be flipped to the Miami Marlins for a player to be named later in what I believe was Kim Ng’s first trade as Marlins GM,. This is, to date, one of the worst moves made by Elias. Though the Orioles also lost right-hander Gray Fenter to the Chicago Cubs in the same Rule 5 Draft, the Cubs have already returned Fenter to the Orioles. The Marlins will bury Pop with multiple IL stints in order to keep him. That’s an old trick the Orioles used to hide Anthony Santander from having to offer him back to the Cleveland Indians.
Pop has thrown three times in Grapefruit League action for the Marlins this spring, striking out three and walking one in three innings.
Pop was drafted by the Dodgers in 2017, and prior to his Tommy John surgery in 2019, had thrown 80.1 innings in 57 games in the minors, posting a 1.34 ERA and 0.91 WHIP. In those 80.1 innings, Pop struck out 80, walked 25 and gave up one homer.
Somehow, this guy was not protected over the likes of Austin Wynns, Chris Shaw and a couple others. It was deemed necessary to pick up Mac Sceroler and Tyler Wells — two Rule 5 pick-ups who are having mixed results.
I see it often in any line of work. When someone new comes in, they often times clear out the people a predecessor had brought in. This is not to poke fun or be deliberately belittling of a Hunter Harvey, who has been kept on board for nine seasons. Zach Pop never even got the chance to show this new group what he was made of. As I said, I think they’ll rue the day they left him available.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Baltimore Orioles