The degree to which Hunter Harvey has advanced his professional career can be measured through bullpen projections for 2020.
Through the notion that Harvey might be the only sure thing for the Orioles.
There are assumptions to be made, of course. Mychal Givens is slotted into the bullpen with the caveat that he could be traded, if the market cooperates, while MLBTradeRumors.com projects his salary to climb to $3.2 million. Richard Bleier is mentioned as a non-tender candidate, but I’ve been given no indication that he’s the most likely to be subjected to it. Miguel Castro’s status also is a bit uncertain with his arbitration eligibility bumping his salary beyond $1 million.
Is Paul Fry going to break camp as one of the left-handed relievers? Probably. Is it a certainty? Not really. He’ll have to earn it.
Shawn Armstrong? I’d include him in the projections without issuing any guarantees.
Aaron Brooks could be used in a bulk role behind an opener if the Orioles choose that route. And if he isn’t part of the rotation.
Tanner Scott was expected to make the opening day roster this year and had to be optioned based on his 8.00 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in nine innings. Branden Kline and Evan Phillips could be in Baltimore on March 26 or at Twin Lakes Park.
David Hess is trying to hold onto his spot on the 40-man roster.
Dillon Tate knows that he’s slotted for relief work, while the Orioles keep bouncing Hess between rotations and bullpens, but results will matter in spring training. Cody Carroll didn’t pitch this year beyond two rehab appearances in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and his stint in the Arizona Fall League, which makes him a wild card of sorts in the competition.
There will be non-roster invitees in camp who could alter the bullpen picture. There will be failed starters who could transition to long relief.
John Means wasn’t supposed to make the club out of spring training. He did it, but as the last lefty in the ‘pen. Some success stories can’t be written in advance.
Meanwhile, a healthy Harvey is an easy pick. He’s the high-leverage guy, the impactful arm that’s been missing from the equation. Great stuff with results that are most likely to match it.
There shouldn’t be a single bullpen projection that doesn’t include him, as long as he stays healthy. The caveat that unfortunately has followed him around like a stray dog.
The Orioles shut down Harvey late in the season, his last appearance coming on Sept. 13. He experienced some mild soreness in his right biceps, but already worked a combined 82 innings between the minors and his seven appearances in the majors - his highest total since 2014 at Single-A Delmarva.
There was no reason to push him. The Orioles wisely stuck to a cautious approach, which included a resistance to pitching him on back-to-back days.
They should be able to turn him loose next season, easing on the restrictions without overusing him. Same as everyone else.
He can blow away hitters in the seventh, eighth or ninth innings. He’s a top candidate to close. Not the same as everyone else.
Harvey isn’t going to start anymore. The club hasn’t made an official statement on his status, but everyone sees where this is going and what both sides prefer.
“I loved it. It’s been awesome,” Harvey said in September. “When we moved to the bullpen at first it was like, ‘Let’s try to figure this out,’ and it ended up working out pretty good.
“Hopefully it’s the same. Like I said, I haven’t been told anything, but hopefully it’s the same.”
Said manager Brandon Hyde: “I think it’s something we’re still talking about and we’ll continue to talk about it early on in this offseason. But he looks so good in that relief role and it’s hard to ignore that. And it’s hard to ignore how comfortable he looked pitching late in the game.
“His stuff is just exceptional, so I think we’ll consider everything, but he looked great in that late-inning role.”
Today’s question: Would you keep Harvey in the bullpen or try again to make him a major league starter?