Orioles prospect Hunter Harvey and the rise of an Internet darling

Gone are the days when weekly newspaper stat lines and monthly issues of Baseball America were the only sources of information on a team’s minor league players.

A rising interest in fantasy baseball, the home team’s future, and sadly, a cottage industry of autograph creepers have all led to a boom in minor league scouting reports and player stories online.

Everyone wants to know who tomorrow’s stars are, and the earlier you’re in on someone, the more you can crow when he turns out to be a stud.

In his brief minor league career, Orioles 2013 first-round pick Hunter Harvey has been a study of how that buzz can grow. With today’s release of Baseball Prospectus’ first-hand scouting report of Harvey by CJ Wittman (from the April 16 game I attended with him), I thought I’d look at how the groundswell of support for Harvey in online baseball circles grew to where it is today.

I started to hear the buzz on Hunter Harvey when he was in the Gulf Coast League, when my friend and colleague at SoxProspects.com, Chris Hatfield, saw Harvey lay waste to the Red Sox’s GCL lineup in front of a beaming Dan Duquette. When Harvey was brought up to short-season Single-A Aberdeen, I wanted to see for myself, and all Harvey did was sit 93-95 mph with his explosive fastball, buckle knees with his breaking ball and show feel for his changeup. I was sold.
Another SoxProspects.com colleague -- Chris Mellen, now of Baseball Prospectus -- went the following week to see Harvey against the Red Sox's New York-Penn League affiliate in Lowell. Mellen wrote him up in September in a piece about memorable scouting experiences, writing Harvey’s "raw stuff absolutely shined on the diamond, but it was also the way he went about executing his craft that stood out to me and made it a memorable first look at the prospect."

On the strength of that report, BP ranked Harvey the 58th overall prospect in baseball. Keith Law of ESPN went even higher, ranking Harvey 38th. Baseball America left him out of its top 100, while he was the last player in MLB.com’s Top 100.

The aggression from BP and Law appears wise. Harvey has allowed earned runs in just two of his seven starts, and most recently allowed four unearned runs and four hits with six strikeouts and one walk in six innings May 5. He has a 1.29 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 32 innings.

Thursday’s BP scouting report projects that Harvey’s fastball and curveball are currently above average and could become well-above average pitches as he matures. And while it’s rare to see a nearly two-grade jump between a present-day changeup and his future changeup (presently a 45, or just below average, to a 60, which is above average), Harvey’s arm and mentality make it plausible.

Check out the report, and everything else BP’s prospect team does. (I would include more info and tweets from BP staffers about Harvey this year, but their passion sometimes leads to delightfully-explicit language, and this is a family blog).

It also features a report on infielder Hector Veloz, who despite serious raw power does not get as promising of an assessment as Harvey from Orioles Nation writer Tucker Blair. Both reports are well worth your time.

Hart building a foundation

The Orioles’ first day of the draft last year would have been a success with Harvey alone, but it looks like they have an interesting talent in outfielder Josh Hart, as well.

The raw outfielder, who was drafted 37th overall with the team’s competitive balance pick, is hitting .364/.382/.364 with a pair of steals and four RBIs in his last ten games, which brought him to .298/.344/.310 on the season.

Hart, who was famously assigned a one-page paper by Buck Showalter because he didn’t know who Frank Robinson was, is not only developing his knowledge on Orioles history, but his body as well. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound outfielder has just one extra-base hit this season, and while he has the skills to be a table-setter at the top of a big league lineup, he needs to grow into his body and add more strength.



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