New York Mets right-hander Matt Harvey had top-of-the-rotation stuff on Thursday night in Arizona, with a plus fastball and slider combination that carved up Arizona Diamondbacks hitters. He was 94-98 mph for five innings with some arm-side run, hard enough to get it by hitters even though the pitch lacks any sink or downhill plane. The slider was toxic at 87-91 mph, a grade-70 pitch pretty much all outing, shorter like a cutter and breaking very late. He threw it down and in to left-handers in lieu of his changeup, which was solid at 87-89 mph with good arm speed but which he barely used.
He was casting his curveball early in the game but did throw several sharper ones, all 83-85 mph and when it was on, it was not only tough to hit but a pitch he could also throw for strikes. I've never seen Harvey throw this hard or with a slider this sharp, so he may have just been amped up for his first big league start, but if this is the 'new' Matt Harvey, Mets fans should be even more excited than they were before.
Harvey's delivery, a major weakness of his before his junior year in college, is even cleaner now than it was when he was drafted. He stays over the rubber longer than he did then, still gets out over his front side very well and gets his arm, always quick, into perfect position when his front foot lands. He did lose his arm slot in the sixth inning on Thursday and was no longer able to command the fastball, which the Mets' coaching staff picked up on pretty quickly, letting him face one more right-handed batter before pulling him.
• All-Star Wade Miley pitched for the Diamondbacks, working 90-92 mph and throwing a ton of strikes, concentrating on the lower half of the zone, especially down and away with the fastball. His slider at 81-83 mph was mostly short, but he varied the shape and tried to get it in to right-handed hitters with varying success. His delivery is cross-body, creating deception but generally not good for long-term durability. On Thursday, Mets hitters seemed to have a good plan of attack, diving in to get to the fastball away, and Miley wasn't able to establish himself on the inner half enough to keep them from making contact.
• Mets reliever Josh Edgin was pretty impressive in a short stint, mostly 94-95 mph with a sharp slider that should be a wipeout pitch against left-handed batters.
Arizona Rookie League
• Cincinnati's first-round pick this year, prep right-hander Nick Travieso, made his pro debut on Sunday, throwing one inning against the Cubs. He was 89-93 mph and threw a pair of changeups, not enough for a full evaluation of his stuff; given how other pitchers have fared out here in his debuts, I wouldn't be surprised if he's into the mid-90s in his next few outings. His delivery has some effort to it, and he pronates his pitching arm pretty late, which is probably why many (but not all) scouts thought he'd be a reliever in the end.
• A's right-hander Michael Ynoa, recipient of a $4.25 million signing bonus in 2008, is back and pitching regularly out here, looking more or less as he did before the surgery. Last Saturday, he was 89-93 mph with a slow curveball at 71-74 mph with good depth, showing a loose and very easy delivery and plenty of projection. It began raining during his outing, after which he seemed like he couldn't maintain his grip on the curveball. He's Rule 5 eligible this year, so the A's will have to add him to their 40-man roster to protect him.
• Shortstop Addison Russell has one of the best swings I've seen out here, short to the ball with good hip rotation and some loft in the swing for future power. I didn't see him challenged at shortstop, but his body is in excellent shape, trimmer than he was when I saw him last summer, athletic enough for him to stay at the position, for which he's always had the hands and the quickness.
• The Cubs' first-round pick this year, Albert Almora, made his pro debut this week, showing off a very easy, simple swing of his own, homering on Monday but struggling a little bit with his timing after almost two months away from facing live pitching.
• Chicago's third-rounder, Ryan McNeil, debuted on Tuesday night, working at 89-91 mph in one inning. Sandwich-rounder Paul Blackburn threw that night as well, showing better stuff across the board than he had in his first outing, and his arm looked looser as well.
• Cleveland's second-round pick from last year, Dillon Howard, pitched that night and was very disappointing, working at 87-90 mph, and his arm looked slow or tired. He was substantially better than that as an amateur.
• Finally, Jorge Soler has now homered twice in the AZL, both times with me in the ballpark, one a huge bomb out to left-center that traveled 420-430 feet, the other a hard line drive that landed halfway up the berm at HoHoKam between the left-field fence and the scoreboard. His hands just explode when he swings, but there is some cost, as I've seen him swing under a couple of high fastballs that he's going to have to learn to let pass.