Friday, July 27, 2012

From Gooden to Harvey

Let's start with the following -  I am not comparing Matt Harvey to Dwight Gooden.  I repeat, I am not comparing Matt Harvey to Dwight Gooden.  However, here's what I believe to be an indisputable fact:  The Mets drafted and developed Gooden, who exploded into the Majors in 1984.  Last night in Arizona, Matt Harvey displayed the best pure stuff we've seen from a starting pitcher who was drafted, developed, and debuted with the Mets since the Doctor.  The previous sentence is both a knock on the Mets' scouting and development over the past 28 years, and an endorsement of Harvey's arsenal of pitches.  Had the Mets not foolishly traded Scott Kazmir in 2004, he would've come up and been the guy who had the best stuff since Dwight.  They dealt him, and it didn't happen.

Between 1985 and 2011, a plethora of Mets draftees went through the Minors and came up to the bigs.  Some had enormous expectations, some didn't.  Contrary to what some think, Sid Fernandez and David Cone were drafted by the Dodgers and Royals, respectively.  So, they don't count.  In the early 90's, Bill Pulsipher, Paul Wilson, and Jason Isringhausen were touted as "Generation K."  They'd come up together and bring the Mets back to respectability.  A combination of overuse in the minors, injuries, and in Isringhausen's case his temper, prevented any of them from reaching the Majors and displaying the talent behind the hype.  Bobby Jones came up in 1994 and became a  rotation mainstay, but he got by on guile.  Octavio Dotel had some moments in 1999, but his arsenal was still lacking a bit.  Mike Pelfrey was tinkered with before he came up in 2006, and never displayed the plus-plus fastball he was supposed to have.  Philip Humber got hurt, and despite throwing a perfect game for the White Sox, didn't do a thing for the Mets.  Jonathon Niese has very good stuff, but his fastball is tame compared to Harvey's.  Dillon Gee is a finesse pitcher.

So, if we span from 1984 to 2012, and are forced to name the two pitchers with the best pure stuff the Mets have drafted and developed before making their debut for the team?  It's Gooden 1, and  Harvey 2.  I'll now repeat a third time:  I'm not putting Matt Harvey on the level of Dwight Gooden.  Doc was a once in a generation talent who was almost impossibly good.  However, what we saw on the mound last night in Arizona was the best pitcher the Mets have produced since. 

Last night in Arizona, Matt Harvey took the ball and made us all open our eyes.  He may yet turn out the be the #2 type starter most scouts have projected him to be, but last night's stuff said otherwise.  His fastball sat mostly 93-96, touching 98 MPH.  He painted the black with it, ran it up, ran it in. His slider was at times filthy, coming in anywhere from the high 80's to 91 MPH.  His curve had a sharp, late break.  And he located it.  His change is still developing, but he wasn't afraid to use it.  He came right after the hitters, getting ahead in the count and then busting them in.  Imagine?  A starting pitcher the Mets developed who isn't afraid to throw inside.  While he was striking out 11 Diamondbacks and giving up only 3 hits and 0 runs over his 5.1 inning Major League debut, Harvey also displayed poise on the mound.  He was calm, he was decisive, and he worked quickly.  It was a thrill to watch.   

No one can state whether last night was a sign of how things will be for Harvey going forward.  What we do know, is that he has the stuff and makeup necessary to dominate.  And that's extremely exciting.  If he becomes a #2 type starter, fine.  But he clearly has the potential to be much more than that.  Even more exciting, is the fact that Zack Wheeler (according to every scout and observer) has better stuff than Matt Harvey.  According to Sandy Alderson, Wheeler won't see the Majors in 2012.  He should be in AAA in the coming weeks, which would make him a candidate to make the 2013 starting rotation out of Spring Training.

Any number of things may prevent Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler from reaching their full potential.  One of them has made it to the big leagues, while the other is extremely close.  For all the misfortune that's been heaped on this team, wouldn't it be rewarding if Harvey and Wheeler fulfilled the potential they clearly possess?  Last night, Matt Harvey showed that he has the stuff to do it.  Now, Mets fans are waiting on Wheeler.  Once the two of them are together in the rotation, all that's left to do is pray to the Baseball Gods.  To ask them to allow these two to become special, and turn the dreams of Mets fans into reality.   

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