Nationals Baseball: Harvey's better?

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Harvey's better?

There is some talk around the Nats world about Austin Voth.  The former Nats prospect had looked like a possible solid rotation piece around 2015/16 putting up good numbers in AA then AAA but he collapsed in 2017 and while he debuted in the majors in 2018 it wasn't a deserved debut. He would flash decent stats in 2019 only to come back down to earth with bad stats in 2020 as a starter, and the same in 2021 and the start of 2022 as a reliever. So despite loving the stuff the guy had the Nats cut ties. I mean he is 30. 

He was waived and the Orioles picked him up. Since then he's been... well great. After a few relief outings to get him going, he got back into starting and has been stretched out to now 90+ pitches and around 6 innings. As a starter he's posting a 2.68 ERA and while that is a little bit of luck (his FIP is more like 3.50) He's definitely a usuable starter and if he can sustain this eating more than 5 innings consistently... why he's a good middle of the rotation starter. 

Austin Voth might be a good middle of the rotation starter. 

Still it is only a third of the season.  He hasn't faced a lot of good teams.  Not a lot of bad teams either but only two decent teams. Toronto, who he held in check and Texas who he did not.  Maybe he is good. Or maybe he's just very good against the Rays, who he has faced 4 times and account for like a quarter of his innings with the Orioles.  We have to see. 

But what we aren't noticing so much there is a reverse going on. 

Hunter Harvey was a first round draft pick for the Orioles.  He looked real good in the minors early on (He was as high as #20 on prospect lists) before Tommy John got him in 2015. He'd throw 30 innings total in 2016 and 2017. In 2018 he had to be protected from the Rule V draft so they added him to the 40-man. But despite looking good in camp, his year was a struggle in AA. The subsequent years were full of injury issues - sore arms and oblique injuries and just a failure to get anything going. He's pitched all of 200 innings since 2014. That's an average of about 25-30 a year. 

The Orioles tried to sneak him through waivers after last year but the Giants gobbled him up... only to waive him themselves at the end of camp to make room on their 40 man*. Again he didn't get through waivers with the Nats grabbing him up.The Nats didn't really make him spend much time in the minors and as of right now one could argue he's the best bullpen arm they have in the majors.

Harvey - hurt or not - has great strike zone control and is able to keep the ball in the zone when he wants to. But he'd been a guy who used a very good curveball to help put people away.  Injuries seemed to take that away from him and those curve, while staying in the zone, tended to float in and get hit. Without the out pitch he could only rely on fastball and changeup and while the fastball remained good you could just sit change. 

The new Harvey, as of 2022, doesn't try much with the curve anymore.  He added a split finger (which his dad - All-star reliever Bryan Harvey** - used a bunch) and it's been good. More than anything it gives him the out pitch he lost with the injuries taking his curveball.  The fastball is still great so if he can maintain a decent 2nd pitch like the split, I think there is really something there as a reliever.

So yes Voth "got away" and with some corrections might be a good major league starter. But his own history (scouting, development, and stats) say that's unlikely.  Passable 4th/5th that the Nats could have used? Sure. But good one? I don't think I believe that.On the other hand Hunter Harvey's scouting, development, and stats all say something different. They say it's likely he could be a very good reliever, maybe even a lights out closer, if he can stay healthy and actually get a chance to pitch a couple years, hell just multiple months, in a row.  He's been doing that for the Nats and with perfectly ok Finnegan a probably good Rainey, and a fast tracked Carrillo.  Could this pen be good? Maybe.

Hey! There's something for you!

*For Jakob Junis who's been good. 

**I haven't read a story saying his Dad taught him it after Hunter seemed destined to relieve instead of start, but that seems the most likely scenario.


Ryan said...

I was literally thinking about how good Harvey looks while walking my dog this morning, thanks for the article.

SM said...

There must be a number of guys like that--starters and relievers--floating around the majors.

You know, promising draftee, decent in the low minors, soft tissue injury here and there, some bad luck, wrong organization, inability to master an out pitch, victim of roster numbers game, etc. Finally, in their late 20s, the right organization at the right time and career rejuvenation.

The trick is to find them. I wonder if some organizations are better at it than others, or if it's a case of random luck.

Nice piece, Harper.

Steven Grossman said...

Nats fans have understandably focused on Voth's comments on how much more support he's gotten on the Orioles. To a degree this is understandable--we all believe (including Rizzo) that player development needs improvement. However, Voth's comments have fed a narrative that the defects in our player development are concrete and obvious and the Lerner's and Rizzo must be really stupid not to have fixed them years ago. In contrast, I suspect that the problems are more nuanced and culture...buying a few more stat camera is necessary but hardly sufficient.

ocw5000 said...

The Voth thing is less about "we let a good one get away" and more about "why do pitchers figure things out when they leave DC?". Voth seems like the latest after Giolito, Treinen, Felipe Rivero/Vazquez/Sexpredator, etc. Even Trevor Rosenthal sorted himself out with a 0.8 WAR season after leaving DC.

ocw5000 said...

Also, Harper: kudos on the title of this post. 10/10