Three reasons Matt Harvey needs to be the Opening Day starter

In the past few days, reports have surfaced regarding Johan Santana‘s eligibility for throwing the first pitch of the 2013 season in April, citing “shoulder fatigue” as the primary reason. While there has been much debate on his future, the immediate question for the Mets should be who will start for them on Opening Day?

While it is still a few weeks away and all signs point to Jonathan Niese being the inevitable replacement option, one pitcher has shown so much potential that he is making a case for that opportunity. That pitcher is Matt Harvey.

At the tender age of 23 (he will be 24 on March 27), Harvey has emerged as more than a prospect and has become a major part of the Mets present rotation rather than their future expectations. His first full season will be this year, but if last season was any indication as to how he will respond at the MLB level, he is by far the best pitcher the Mets have. He deserves the chance to be considered as the Opening Day starter for three reasons: confidence level, team trust and the hot hand.

First, Harvey broke out immediately after being called up last year. He set records and dazzled everyone. This helped his confidence. It showed him that he can compete at the MLB level. Every player believes they can, but until they actually do perform well, there is always a shred of doubt. That shred was obliterated in a matter of weeks last season. He has shown the mentality of an ace. Harvey posted a 2.73 ERA in his first ten career starts. He fanned 70 batters in 59.1 IP while walking only 26. He has the numbers to back up his promised potential.

While that is a small sample, he has shown this spring that he has not skipped a beat. He threw no-hit baseball for 4.1 IP against a younger starting Miami Marlins squad that is hungry to earn a spot in the Majors. If that has helped his confidence, an Opening Day start would boost it immensely. He would feel like he belongs and he is valuable to this team. That can only be a positive. With the veterans in that clubhouse, he will not get a big head, but he needs to be shown that trust.

Next, is the level of trust the team has to show him. Harvey is the future of this franchise. They have to show him they not only understand that but appreciate that fact by naming him the pitcher that they think can set the best tone opening up the season. The clubhouse needs to embrace the youth movement on this team in such a way that it becomes the new identity of the franchise.

That will help the players blend together into a collective unit that believe in each other and support one another throughout every adversity the season may hold. That unity is essential and it begins by the veterans and management showing faith in the younger players to step into roles that have massive pressure. That trust is a necessity on all levels.

Finally, Harvey has the hot hand going into the season at this point. On the strength of that no-hit dominance and the half season of 2012, he is building a resume that deserves notice. While it may seem like he will have to face the inevitable sophomore adjustment period, Matt Harvey seems to have the right mentality to face the season in stride. That mentality should help him avoid the second year slump that most highly-touted players seem to confront.

With all of these factored in, Harvey has to at least be considered to start Opening Day. While he most likely will not be and that decision will not effect his season one way or the other, if the Mets were to embrace him as their Opening Day ace, it would boost the team and Harvey in so many ways and solidify them even further.

19 comments for “Three reasons Matt Harvey needs to be the Opening Day starter

  1. March 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

    Harvey definitely looks like he’ll be great in the future, but I think you give Niese the opening day ball in 2013. Niese has shown flashes of greatness while producing solid results at the major league level for a few years. That alone has earned him the right to be on the short list for opening day. He’s also going to be part of the future – barring a huge trade.

    Harvey may one day eclipse Niese, but not yet and not for opening day.

    • NormE
      March 13, 2013 at 11:34 am

      I agree with Mike. If Harvey stays healthy he should get many opening day assignments.

  2. Name
    March 13, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Your 1st and 2nd points are valid reasons.
    The 3rd reason you listed isn’t valid in my opinion. It is only march 13th, so he could get roughed up in the next 3 weeks. The tidbit about Harvey dominating a “hungry” Fish team is also completely off. I’d much rather face a “hungry” Fish squad than All-stars playing at 50%, if that is even possible. Talent > desire
    Spring stats are also meaningless and certainly should not be used to judge whether someone deserves an Opening Day start.

  3. March 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    While I would consider Harvey for about 3 seconds you need to give the ball to Niese. There’s no point in putting that kind of pressure on him so soon. Give him a full year at the major league level and prepare the team for 2014. I have to agree with Name with spring training games are to prepare for opening day and should be measured accordingly.

  4. Joe Vasile
    March 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    I like the idea, but much like some of the other commenters, I think you have to give the ball to Niese. Right now Niese is the starting pitcher I trust most on the team because of his track record. Other than Dickey, he has been the best pitcher on the Mets over the past two years. Although his BABIP is due to regress this year (it was .272 last year after being .324 and .333 in 2010 and 2011), he is the surest thing in the starting rotation. I think in 2014 there will be a legitimate debate to have about whether Harvey deserves the opening day nod, but let’s get through 2013 first. Remember, Mike Pelfrey had 10 start stretches where he looked dominant too. It’s a very small sample size.

    • Name
      March 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      +1. Great post. I think that ultimately his BABIP will fall between his 2012 level and 10-11 levels because he has figured out how to avoid the big blowup innings.

  5. Craig
    March 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    TC doesn’t want to offend Niese and Niese has been here several years, having said this Harvy
    should start opening day because Wheeler aside Harvy is and will be your ace for years to come! As far as the pressure on Harvy goes he thrives under pressure as shown last year when
    the mets bought up Harvy and put him under a mircoscope in NY and he responed with flying
    colors!! Harvy needs to get use to opening up this year and for many years to come!!

  6. Frank
    March 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    My points exactly Craig. Niese is worth the money and is a good pitcher, but he is not ace material. The opening day start sets the tone for the season. You need an ace-type of pitcher hurling that first game.

  7. March 13, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I’d LOVE to see Harvey get the Opening Day nod — it would send some kinda message, wouldn’t it? — but Niese will get it, from prestige/respect standpoint and in the absence of Johan, he does actually deserve it.

  8. March 13, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    Harvey today: not as dominant as last time, but still pretty damn good…

    4 IP 3 H 1 BB 3 R (all earned) 6 K

    More & more, he’s looking like the real stuff…

  9. Brian
    March 13, 2013 at 7:20 pm

    I think Harvey as the opening day starer sends a message that the future begins now. I don’t think the Mets owe it to Neise because he has been around a few years. If he wants to be the opening day starter, then pitch better than Harvey. This giving someone the nod on opening day or batting them higher in the lineup because they have been there longer is nonsense. Earn the job with performance not tenure!

    • Name
      March 14, 2013 at 1:39 am

      Niese has earned it. Niese’s performance last year was more impressive than Harvey’s simply because he did it over a much longer period of time. Baseball is about sustainability and durability and Harvey has yet to show that.

      • Chris F
        March 14, 2013 at 7:48 am

        Exactly.

        • Metsense
          March 14, 2013 at 9:47 am

          Ditto

    • March 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

      You said it a lot better than I did, Brian.

  10. March 13, 2013 at 11:58 pm

    If Harvey gets bombed you do more harm than good. Let him earn that honor. What volume of work does Harvey have to show that he has earned that privilege to be the opening day starter? We all know 2013 is basically a building block year. Continue putting the pieces in place and let him gain valuable experience. Why can’t you wait one year before you put the team on his shoulders and the responsibility that comes with being the number one starter? The Mets are not going anywhere this year.

  11. Michael Sklar
    March 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Matt Harvey has the “Right Stuff” Management must take a hard Look at Starting Matt Opening Day. Representing 1983, Darryl Strawberry / Matt Harvey 2013.

    This will be a rough ride but watching the team grow will be our fun.

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