Fantasy Baseball: Avoid Matt Harvey for Now

The former Mets ace has a long way to go before becoming a reliable starter once again.

In "The Dark Night Rises," the film opens with Bruce Wayne hobbling around with a cane and a scruffy beard, truly looking the part of a rich hermit. Batman hadn't been seen in quite a while, and Wayne was licking his chops. All those years of caped crusading had taken its toll.

But towards the end of the first act of the film, Wayne realizes he has to get back in the game. His knee is shot, so he wears a device that suddenly makes him a judo-machine once again. He rehabs and sharpens his skills and begins training to once again become The Dark Knight.

Things go OK for a while. Batman beats up some henchmen here and there and "looks" like the same guy he was before. Unfortunately, Bane enters the picture.

In the first of their two fight scenes, The Dark Knight gets his rear end handed to him but a much bigger, stronger, and capable bad guy, leading to a broken back and a stay in the posh "prison that has no name" in some far-off country from which Wayne is somehow able to escape despite having no money, transportation or means of any other kind.

Which brings us to Matt Harvey, a.k.a. "The Dark Knight," who missed most of the 2016 season because of thoracic outlet surgery. On Sunday, he made his first trip back to the mound in a live game since July 4, and the results were mixed.

Well, it's a Start

In 1.2 innings, the right-hander gave up four runs on four hits with no walks and three strikeouts. The big blow was a three-run home run by Jose Martinez on a 3-0 fastball right down the middle of the plate.

Harvey threw 39 pitches in New York's 14-11 loss and failed to make it out of the second inning, although he did have a 1-2-3 first frame. And while his performance was certainly not akin to getting his back broken by an international terrorist intent on unleashing a nuclear bomb in a metropolitan city, he certainly is a long way from completely climbing out of "the pit."

Harvey's fastball sat around 90-92, touching 94. That's certainly not bad, considering how long he had been out, but it's not where it needs to be yet. He averaged 94.5 mph last season, and in the two seasons before that, his average heater ranged between 95.8-95.9 miles per hour.

That's a good 4 mph faster than what he did on Sunday, but it is also his first spring outing of the season.

Most pitchers don't have their velocity where it needs to be, and many starters are giving up runs they ordinarily wouldn't. That's just what happens in the spring. Mets manager Terry Collins said Harvey also came into the game with a stiff neck and almost skipped this start. As for The Dark Knight, he was pleased with how he threw.

"I just want to make every start and I’m kind of looking start-to-start and day-[to]-day down here. I’m working on the process rather than expectations. My expectations are to be out there every fifth day.”

When asked about his expectations for 2017, he had an interesting response:

“Honestly, I don’t have any."

Don't Expect a Ton and You Won't Be Disappointed

As a fantasy baseball owner, perhaps you shouldn't have any expectations for Harvey either since there are a few other reasons for caution.

Since his first full season in 2013, his strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) have been going down, his walks per nine (BB/9) have been going up, and his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) has been increasing.

Season Starts K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP
2013 26 9.64 1.56 2.27 2.00
2015 29 8.94 1.76 2.71 3.05
2016 17 7.38 2.43 4.86 3.47

Also, as noted in Jeff Passan's terrific book "The Arm," pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery are at a greater risk for re-injuring their arm. Harvey missed all of 2014 with TJ surgery, and then missed half of 2016 because of TOS, a condition where nerves, arteries or veins in the passageway from the lower neck to the armpit are compressed.

It's not an elbow injury, but it is the second major surgery Harvey has had in his young career.

Finally, the history of pitchers who have had TOS and returned to the mound is not promising. The San Francisco Giants' Noah Lowry, St. Louis Cardinals' Chris Carpenter, former Texas Rangers' starter Matt Harrison, and the Los Angeles Dodgers' Josh Beckett all essentially had their careers ended because of it. Of course, in the case of Carpenter and Beckett, they were near the end of their careers anyway.

San Diego Padres hurler Clayton Richard and the Atlanta Braves' Jaime Garcia offer better news. Richard is still pitching, now as a reliever, and Garcia is once again an effective starter, now for the Braves.

However, if you're thinking of drafting Harvey in season-long fantasy drafts, it might be wise to either hold off or see if he falls to the very late rounds. In numberFire's recent 14-team mock draft, he went in the middle of the 5th round, which was the 55th overall pick. That's a little earlier than where other owners are selecting him, according to FantasyPro's ADP numbers, where he's currently going 128th overall as 49th pitcher off the board.

Our 2017 MLB projections see Harvey as the 79th-best pitcher in terms of nF fantasy score (0.81), pitching 157 innings with a 3.80 ERA, a 1.22 WHIP, 8 wins, 122 strikeouts and 40 walks.

At this point, the Mets would probably happily take those numbers. But based on where he's being drafted, he's being selected too soon. The wise move is to take a wait-and-see approach and only grab him if he ends up falling past the 70th pitcher being selected.

Perhaps The Dark Knight will return. But he has to get out of "the pit" first.