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The Yankees might have something in Joseph Harvey

One of the current members of the Scranton Shuttle is doing something impressive.

New York Yankees v San Francisco Giants Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Scranton Shuttle is something all Yankees fans should pay close attention to. You never knows who’s going to be the next reliever to come up and impress like Chad Green and Dellin Betances did before. The revolving door provides the replenishment of rested arms to the bullpen, the obvious option for a blow-out game whether winning or losing, and most importantly, the first step into seeing a pitching prospect make his debut.

This year, unfortunately, there isn’t much hype for any particular pitcher coming up the pipeline like there has been in the past. Remember waiting for Justus Sheffield last season? He made his debut in September and two months later was traded for James Paxton.

With an injury to Dellin Betances and the under-performance of Chad Green, the Yankees have had to give some opportunities to current Scranton Shuttle conductor, Joseph Harvey. Harvey’s short time on the major league roster has been productive, as he’s shown a skill the rest of the super bullpen hasn’t topped. When looking at the rest of the American League, Harvey ranks with some of the best.

Yankees Avg. Spin Rate Leaders

Pitcher Results Avg. Spin Rate (RPM) Avg. Pitch Velocity
Pitcher Results Avg. Spin Rate (RPM) Avg. Pitch Velocity
Joe Harvey 148 2516 95.5
Aroldis Chapman 136 2483 97.3
Jonathan Loaisiga 142 2450 95.9
Chad Green 141 2433 94.8

If you are surprised Harvey already has thrown 148 four-seam fastballs in just 8.1 innings of work, don’t be. The fastball currently accounts for 80% of his pitch arsenal. Remaining pitches are a slider for 17.3% and a changeup he’s only thrown five times this season, specifically to left-handed hitters.

The important thing to know about Harvey is he’s leading the Yankees in spin rate, while slightly ranked behind Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole for seventh overall in the American League. This shows great potential, especially because it’s on a fastball. A high spin rate helps the pitch resist gravity slightly longer than an average-spin-rate fastball, resulting in hitters whiffing under the ball or hitting the bottom. It also shows characteristics of a pitcher who can draw an above average swinging-strike-rate, which would be beneficial to Harvey who relies on it so often. This is just half of the information written by Mike Petriello of Statcast on fastball spin rate if you need a deeper view.

With Harvey currently showing signs of having a promising fastball, one of his current issues is his command of the pitch. One can usually tell if someone is having command troubles by looking at the pitcher’s walk rate, and Harvey has a high one at 5.9 BB/9. To begin, he is throwing his four-seamer for a ball almost 38% of the time. As one would imagine, that frequently leaves Harvey behind in the count since it’s his main pitch.

Most notably, when looking at Harvey’s situational pitch usage, it’s clear he mainly relies on his fastball to try getting back into the count. In total, he’s thrown 64 fastballs while the batter is ahead, which means 43% of the fastballs he’s thrown so far have been behind in the count. Major league players look for fastballs when they are ahead, and with Harvey depending on his fastball to get back into the count, it hasn’t resulted in much success when the ball is put into play.

Harvey ahead vs. behind in count

Harvey Situation Results Batting Average xBA SLG xSLG
Harvey Situation Results Batting Average xBA SLG xSLG
Ahead In Count 9 0.222 0.199 0.222 0.230
Behind In Count 14 0.429 0.308 0.786 0.446

What needs to happen for Harvey to succeed more often is to switch the results around. He has good success with the pitch ahead in the count, so theoretically it should still work when falling behind. More promising stats for Harvey are expected batting average (xBA) and expected slugging (xSLG) against him when behind in the count. Since they are lower than the actual marks for those categories, it indicates he is running into some bad luck.

With Betances scheduled to be back some time around June or July, Harvey has a lot more time to impress not only the Yankee front office, but also the fans. To begin the year many fans didn’t know who Harvey was, and now he’s getting an opportunity. It’s too early to know what’s expected of him, but the stats are showing some good signs. I’m sure the Yankees know how well his spin rate has been and what it means, and it’s time we took notice as well.