It was not long ago where the mention of the name Hunter Harvey stirred excitement among Orioles fans. Taken 22nd overall in the 2013 draft, he quickly rose up the rankings to become the top Orioles prospect and a top 50 prospect by MLB going into the 2014 season. The Orioles have hoped to have seen Harvey at the Major League level by now but he has yet to pitch past low A ball, so what has happened with the promising prospect? A little thing we call the injury bug.
It started in his first full season in 2014. Harvey was off to a good start adjusting in his first full season of professional ball, pitched a shortened season during his drafted year in 2013, when around the end of July he started experiencing some elbow discomfort in his throwing arm. The Orioles made the decision to shut him down as to not push their prized prospect. He had pitched to a 3.18 ERA with 7 wins and 5 losses throwing 87 ⅔ innings with 106 strikeouts before being shut down.
Looking forward to a fresh and healthy 2015 season, Harvey started off the year at the Orioles minicamp in Sarasota. With his arm feeling great Harvey went into Spring Training that year with plenty of optimism. The Orioles were also fairly optimistic, with Manager Buck Showalter going as far to say his workload was going to be monitored so he could help the Major League club in the second half that year if needed or ready. Just as Spring Training was winding down though, Harvey took a line drive to his ankle. While initial x-rays were negative, his CAT scan revealed there was a fracture to his fibula and it would push back the start of his season by a month or more.
When Harvey started rehabbing around the beginning of May, successfully coming back from the fractured fibula, he was dealt another setback. Harvey experienced tightness in his right elbow and ended up missing the rest of the minor league season. The team had hoped he would be able to pitch in the Arizona fall league to help make up for lost time that season but the recurrence of elbow discomfort ended any hopes of that happening and Harvey was officially shut down for the year. Luckily for Harvey and the Orioles, multiple tests had shown no structural damage.
Harvey was starting 2016 in the same position as he was entering 2015, looking forward to a year where clean health would rule and he could elevate his status bringing him closer to pitching in the Majors. As fate would have it though, it was not quite the year of health for the young ace. He strained his groin at the end of Spring Training delaying his start to the season. After experiencing renewed groin discomfort during several rehab tries it was discovered that Harvey would need sports hernia surgery setting him back another month. Harvey was eventually able to come back and pitched 12 ⅔ innings before being pulled after experiencing right flexor mass soreness. Upon evaluation it was discovered he would be needing Tommy John Surgery and would miss the remainder of the 2016 season and a majority of the 2017 season.
Harvey returned in the latter half to complete his rehab from Tommy John Surgery with positive results. Harvey’s fastball was touching the upper 90’s and his breaking ball was looking crisp. Harvey’s stuff was back. He went on to throw 18 ⅔ innings giving up only 2 runs across 8 starts striking out 30 while only walking 6 batters. In November, the Orioles added Harvey to the 40 man roster to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft.
What does 2018 hold for the promising prospect? Having been monitored during his return in 2017 expect the training wheels to come off as Harvey works towards building up his innings pitched this season. Harvey just turned 23, so while he has missed a ton of time, he is still young so no need to rush him, even if his services would be welcomed with the lack of starting pitching on the Major League club currently. Expect him to be watched closely by Buck and company during Spring Training before being sent to the Minor League camp. Expect Harvey to break camp with the Frederick Keys roster (Single A advanced affiliate) but do not be shocked if he has worked his way up to the Bowie Baysox (Double A affiliate) before the all star break. If everything goes perfect and he is having a massively successful year he could even see some time at the Major League level depending on how the Orioles are performing, it would likely be out of the bullpen though if he receives the call.
Harvey still has all the tools that once made him an elite prospect and future ace. With his stuff returning to normal post Tommy John Surgery, the ceiling is as high as it ever was for the young man from North Carolina. The main question Harvey faces going forward is whether or not he can stay healthy. Similar to what current Orioles pitcher Dylan Bundy faced. Everything Harvey has faced so far should only help him grow mentally stronger and fuel him. Harvey will pitch for the Orioles in the near future and he could be just the answer they’ve been looking for.
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