|Born: July 8, 1987
Height: 5′ 8″
Drafted: 6th Round, 191st Overall, 2008
How Acquired: Trade (for John Grabow/Tom Gorzelanny)
Agent: Jonathan Maurer
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Harrison came from the Cubs, along with RHPs Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio, in exchange for LHPs John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny. He’s a classic case of a player with little in the way of tools who performs very well, at least in one or two areas. At the time of the 2008 draft, Baseball America’s assessment of Harrison was less than inspiring: won’t hit for power with wood bats, not good defensively, doesn’t pivot well, and only average speed. (The Pirates, by contrast, think he has good speed. You’d think this would be measurable somehow . . . .) Despite the assessment, Harrison has hit for average and decent to good gap power, made good contact, and shown some base stealing ability. He makes good contact, but when he first reached the majors would swing at nearly any pitch. Literally. He’s had no platoon split in the majors, but had a sizable one in the minors after he reached AAA. Regardless of how fast he may be, he’s a good, aggressive baserunner. In the minors he played second, third and left, mostly just the first two after the Pirates acquired him. The Pirates used him as a backup at short in 2012 in the majors and he started playing there part of the time in AAA in 2013. The defensive stats suggest that he’s good at third, at least solid at second, subpar in the outfield, and simply shouldn’t play short.
Started off in short season ball and hit very well, with nearly twice as many walks as strikeouts. He moved up to low A after 33 games and just held his own in 31 games there. He played mostly second at both stops.
While he was still with the Cubs, Harrison divided his time between second, third and left. He spent two-thirds of the season in low A and hit well. He rarely walked or struck out. He played 18 games at high A with the Cubs before the trade. With Lynchburg after the trade he may have been pressing, because in 34 games he walked just once and fanned 19 times. If he hadn’t been hit with four pitches, his OBP would have been lower than his BA. He split time between second and third. For the season he did well running the bases.
Spent the season at Altoona and did well, hitting for average with doubles power. He struck out only once every ten ABs, but also didn’t walk much. He managed to drive in 75 runs with only four HRs. He started the season playing mainly second, but eventually settled in primarily at third and ended up playing two-thirds of his games there. The move may have had more to do with the fact that the Pirates wanted Jordy Mercer and Chase d’Arnaud at the middle infield positions.
Harrison opened the season at Indianapolis, playing two-thirds of the time at third and the rest at second. He had significant error problems, with very low fielding percentages of .897 at third and .950 at second. He continued to draw few walks and seldom strike out, and he showed a little more power. About two months into the season, with Pedro Alvarez and Steve Pearce both hurt, the Pirates called Harrison up. They sent him back down a couple of times, but not for very long due to their injury epidemic, so he ended up spending over half the season in the majors. Other than a few games spelling Neil Walker at second, he played third exclusively and did not have the error problems he did in the minors. He showed good contact ability and a little gap power, but absolutely no patience. He walked just three times in 204 plate appearances. He swung at pitches over his head, pitches that bounced in front of the plate, pitches that would have been behind a left-handed hitter. He said after one of his trips to the minors that the Pirates wanted him to be more patient, but he wasn’t. He drew no walks in 59 plate appearances in September.
The Pirates got Harrison work at shortstop in fall instructional league and in spring training to increase his usefulness as a utility infielder. Harrison also indicated that he realized he needs to take more pitches. He ended up having a big spring and made the team, serving for most of the year as the Pirates’ primary backup infielder. That included being the primary backup at shortstop, even when Jordy Mercer was in the majors. He doesn’t really belong at the position, but wasn’t horrible; the defensive stats show him to be below average, but not dramatically so, in a small sample size. Offensively, Harrison was very poor. His plate discipline improved from non-existent to nearly non-existent, but he hit very little.
The Pirates’ disastrous acquisition of Brandon Inge and John McDonald resulted in Harrison spending most of the season’s first half in the minors. He started off in the majors while Inge rehabbed in AAA, but went to Indianapolis in mid-April and stayed there until nearly mid-July, except for a few brief stretches. While in AAA, he mainly divided his time between second and short. After coming back up to stay, he served primarily as a pinch hitter, as Jordy Mercer’s emergence left Harrison as the second choice for a utility infielder. In both the minors and majors, Harrison’s hitting improved, mostly in the form of better power. In fact, his 29 doubles in AAA came in less than half a season. His plate discipline improved slightly in AAA, but in the majors he was more impatient than ever. He swung at 53.5% of the pitches he saw; the major league average is about 46-47%.
Harrison produced one of the more remarkable seasons the Pirates have had in years. The team seemed content to open with him as a utility infielder, as it only brought in Michael Martinez to provide competition. With the Pirates getting little offense from right field, Clint Hurdle started playing Harrison there. He started hitting and also showed a knack for getting big hits and making diving catches. From that point on, Harrison stayed in the lineup, moving to second and left when Neil Walker and Starling Marte were out with injuries, and sometimes replacing Pedro Alvarez at third. In mid-August, the Pirates finally benched Alvarez due to his throwing problems and Harrison started at third from there on. After big months in May (.844 OPS) and June (.823), Harrison was a surprise selection to the All-Star team. He got even hotter in August, posting a 356/382/610 line. On the season he showed especially surprising power, although his patience never really improved Harrison played strong defense at third, making numerous highlight-reel plays, and also got national attention by eluding rundowns twice.
Harrison will certainly be a regular in 2015, although it’s not clear where. The Pirates have said they still consider Alvarez a third baseman, but it’d be wasteful to have Harrison play anywhere but there or second, where Neil Walker is entrenched. Barring some major trade, the most likely scenario is that Alvarez will move to first and Harrison third. Harrison will be eligible for arbitration for the first time in the off-season.
|Signing Bonus: $144,500
MiLB Debut: 2008
MLB Debut: 5/31/2011
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2018
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: N/A
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2013)
MLB Service Time: 3.033
|June 6, 2008: Drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 6th round, 191st overall pick; signed on June 26.
July 30, 2009: Acquired by the Pittsburgh Pirates from the Chicago Cubs along with Kevin Hart and Jose Ascanio in exchange for John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny.
May 30, 2011: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.