Injuries have prevented righthander Hunter Harvey from pitching above the low Class A level. However, the Orioles will consider whether to bring him north after spring training and eventually ease him into their rotation.
A healthy camp could lead to a big jump for Harvey, the 22nd overall pick in 2013 out of Bandys High in North Carolina.
It’s conceivable that Harvey takes a similar path as Dylan Bundy, the 2011 prep first-rounder who also had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. The Orioles put Bundy in their bullpen in 2016 and made him a starter after the all-star break.
The difference is minor league options. Bundy was out of them, but Harvey can be sent to the minors in 2018 (and 2019 and 2020, if necessary).
He may be too good for it.
Harvey allowed just two runs and struck out 30 batters in 18.1 innings after being cleared to pitch. His stuff drew rave reviews from scouts and various members of the organization.
“I saw two rehab assignments and I’m extremely encouraged. It’s exciting,” farm director Brian Graham said.
“If he stays healthy, he’s got a chance to be really good. He’s got three plus pitches—a fastball, curveball and a changeup.”
If Harvey is optioned next spring, the Orioles must decide whether to keep him at the Class A level or perhaps move him up to Double-A Bowie. He turns 23 in December.
“I don’t think where he starts next year is really important,” Graham said. “I think where he finishes will be important. But let’s just get him in a rotation, get him pitching every fifth day, get that command back and stretch his innings out.”
The 2017 Orioles rotation posted the worst ERA in club history at 5.70 and could have three openings behind Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Chris Tillman, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jeremy Hellickson are free agents, and the Orioles are expected to decline Wade Miley’s $12 million option.
The Orioles believe Harvey will eventually occupy one of those spots. It’s just a question of whether his major league debut comes as a starter or reliever. And how quickly he’s handed the ball.