Matt Harvey's 2015 was much anticipated. After having Tommy John surgery right after the 2013 season, he missed all of 2014, despite claims that he was trying to make a comeback at the end of the season. So when 2015 came along with expectations of the Mets being basement dwellers by many, Harvey was one of the few bright spots.
He did not disappoint. Harvey's return to the hill involved him having a strikeout and walk rate that was in the best 3rd of all starters with over 130 IP, and his 46% ground ball rate narrowly missed being in the top third as well (47.8% for top third). The reason I bring this up is because ground balls, walks, and strike outs are what a pitcher can control, and Harvey controlling all three, is just another way of displaying his dominance. If you break his season up, you can see that his control got considerably better as the season progressed, as seen by his 2.1 BB/9 in the first half and 1.27 BB/9 in the second half, causing his strong K/BB in the first half, 4.19, to get herculean in the second half 7.18.
When you look at his velocities, it was more of the same for Harvey compared to pre Tommy John. His fastball was only .2 MPH slower, his slider was .3 MPH slower, and his curve was .2MPH faster. The results were mostly the same per pitch as well with his overall batting average against going from .206 to .219.
Q: So in 2016, what should you expect?
A: Frankly, even more than what he was already producing. Pitchers typically gain better control of their pitches the further they get from Tommy John, so you should expect elite control from Harvey, along with his patented strikeout stuff, and over 200 innings. It's simple math, but the fewer walks will mean he's on the hill to record more strike outs or have more balls put in play, which typically doesn't mean good things for hitters. Also, improved accuracy with his stuff is going to mean even more swings and misses and weak contact. Now we get to the projections:
I'll be reasonable and give you the range of possibilities when it comes to these projections, and they all assume he's playing a healthy season. With over 200 IP, I'd say anything in the 190-220K range is to be expected. I think a slightly better than 9 K/9 is a likely scenario for Harvey, seeing as all his pitches are strikeout offerings.
Wins are a crapshoot stat, but since most leagues use it, a projection of 12-16 is fair. My projections have him at 14, some go higher, some don't so if you get something outside of that range, 1) Harvey may have gotten hurt, 2) Harvey may be on his way to a Cy Young, 3) you should consider switching to the far superior Quality Starts stat.
Harvey has a good defense behind him, is in a good pitchers' park, in a division filled with good pitcher's parks, in a division with poor hitting. Harvey should be able to take full advantage of this and continue his streak of sub 3.00 ERAs. A good year could have him in the low 2s, but I think 2.50 is what he is finishing with.
Since hitters don't hit Harvey, and Harvey is walking fewer and fewer guys as he furthers himself from Tommy John, this is going to be his bread and butter stat. There is no reason to expect a WHIP above 1.1, and something as low as .850 is possible for Harvey.
In conclusion, I honestly believe Harvey is going to be an ace this year, and is deserving of a top 10 SP selection, with a top 4 pick being something I could easily be persuaded into since SP# 4-10 are pretty much interchangeable to me. Harvey's recent injury history, and him striking out fewer than 200 every season could really work in your favor this year, and could potentially drop him a round or two below where he should be taken.