For some first-round draft picks, the Major Leagues are merely a season or two away. Other top prospects take longer, sometimes three or four seasons. Hunter Harvey’s path was a bit more complicated than that.
It was more than six years ago that Harvey was selected by the Orioles in the 2013 MLB Draft. Early in his professional career, he looked like a potential steal as the 22nd pick in that year’s class. He dominated hitters at the lower levels of the minor leagues, and looked like a future staple atop the Orioles rotation.
Of course, there’s a reason the old adage “there’s no such thing as a pitching prospect” exists.
Harvey missed the entire 2015 season with elbow tightness, then pitched just 12.2 innings in 2016 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. He threw only 18.2 innings in 2017 after his recovery, so he entered the 2018 season having tossed just 144.1 innings in five years since being drafted.
Harvey was still used as a starter in 2018 across 32.1 mostly unspectacular innings, but this season, the front office decided to try him out as a reliever.
Early on, it’s been a terrific transition for Harvey, whose natural arm talent plays up even more in shorter stints. And it was out of the bullpen that Harvey finally, after all these years, made his big league debut Saturday.
And what a debut it was.
Working around a walk, Harvey tossed a hitless, scoreless inning against the heart of the vaunted Red Sox lineup. He averaged over 98 mph on his fastball, while flashing potential plus offspeed pitches.
Harvey ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts, a stretch that included nine consecutive strikes.
The Orioles haven’t had many positive moments to point to in 2019, but this definitely qualifies as one. If he can harness his incredible stuff and -- here’s the key -- stay healthy, Harvey could be a dominant late-inning reliever, or potentially even a mid-rotation starter.
Of all the players to wear the orange and black in Baltimore this season, Harvey is one of the few who can stick around long enough to contribute to the next great Orioles team.
More than any excitement surrounding his future, it’s just cool to see somebody overcome countless obstacles to realize their dreams.
That experience wasn’t lost on Harvey himself.
From his incredible mullet, to his long and winding road to the Majors, there’s a lot to cheer for with Harvey. If he can replicate his debut inning a few more times this season, then fans in Baltimore will have to admit he was worth the wait.
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