The Mets went for a college starter with their first pick in the amateur draft last night, grabbing Matt Harvey from UNC with the seventh overall pick. I hadn't heard very much about the Mets coveting Harvey with their pick so I was a little surprised when they selected him over Miami catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was unexpectedly still on the board.
Grandal was picked by some to go as high as fourth overall and there were rumors that the Royals had already agreed to a deal with Grandal even before the draft began. The Royals went with Christian Colon instead and I expected the Mets to react by scooping Grandal up and thanking the amateur baseball gods for their good fortune.
Grandal would've made me happier than Harvey, but I am far from disappointed with the pick. I happen to favor stockpiling big college right-handed starters when it comes to the draft. Starting pitching is still the coin of the realm and Harvey has a few things I like about him besides the major-college pedigree. He throws hard and already has a decent feel for two breaking pitches. Harvey was very highly regarded going into college and was a great college starter during his freshman and junior years.
The red flag for Harvey is his sophomore year performance, apparently because of mechanical issues that remain his biggest concern. I was surprised and a little disheartened when John Sickels panned the pick, because John Sickels knows a hell of a lot more than I do.
A brief digression: when baseball observers speak broadly about "mechanics," I am never sure if they mean that a pitcher's mechanics make him susceptible to injury or if he simply has problems repeating his motion. If it's the first concern, I don't worry about it. Mark Prior had flawless mechanics and his arm blew up on him. The second concern is a bigger issue. I don't really care HOW a guy throws, as long as he's comfortable and can repeat it. Someone like Luis Tiant wouldn't even be drafted today because of his unique mechanics, or he would have been ruined in the minors because some Single-A pitching coach would've completely change the dynamics of it.
A smaller red flag, depending on how you look at it, is the news that Harvey had a 156-pitch outing for the Tarheels earlier this year. It was mentioned during last night's draft show and one of the analysts claim that his final pitch of the night was still 95 MPH. If you read my infrequent postings then you know I'm no pitch-count watcher, but an outing like that is what you makes you worry about college starters. Some college managers are known for shredding the arms of their starters in the annual quest to get to Omaha.
If Harvey signs quickly enough, he'll be on the mound in Brooklyn this summer. I say "if," because Harvey is a Scot Boras client who can go back to UNC for his senior year if the Mets do not meet his asking price. I will be very interested to see if the Mets, who have slavishly adhered to slot recommendations for several years now, meet Harvey's salary demands. Boras certainly won't be worrying about slot recommendations!