The race for the back-up shortstop position is shaping up to be a close one. At the beginning of camp, I gave a slight edge to Yamaico Navarro because of his defensive prowess and upside with the bat. He and Harrison both got off to hot starts in the spring, which kept Navarro’s slight edge in tact (in my eyes at least). However, now Navarro is cooling off and Harrison just continues to hit the ball well.
Let’s take a look at Navarro’s spring first. In his first five games he had six hits in ten at-bats. He cooled off a bit after that but was still hitting .318 ten games into the spring. Since then he has gone 0/7 and has his batting average down to .241 on the spring. In addition to that, he has just one extra base hit. Obviously you can’t do much with a sample so small that an 0/7 will drop you 77 points, but you kind of have to factor it in around this time since you don’t have much else to go on. There are still two weeks of games left to be be played, so Navarro has a chance to turn it around and put himself back in the driver’s seat, but he needs to continue to hit, or else Harrison may not give the Pirates a real choice in the matter.
Jay Hay is hitting a ridiculous .579 this spring in 19 at-bats. He has six doubles and a triple and has been ripping balls left and right. He has not had a game in which he did not register a hit when getting more than one plate appearance. He has also drawn two walks, which is an improvement from last year. Plate patience is key for Harrison and he seems to be making strides in that. The extra base hits are also huge for him if he wants a real chance at making this team out of camp.
Right now the edge has to go to Harrison, but there is a legitimate chance they both make the team. Both of these guys can play some in the outfield, so they can cover every position but catcher and first base, which makes it possible for the Pirates to bring them both. One of them is a lock because they are the only two shortstops still battling for the back-up spot, but the one that doesn’t get the first spot is competing with Nick Evans, Jake Fox, and Matt Hague. None of those three play second or third as well as Harrison and Navarro, so that puts them at a disadvantage.
Evans has hardly seen the field this spring, and that’s kind of confusing for me. Fox has hit the ball pretty well with six hits in 20 at-bats along with two home runs. Matt Hague has also been mashing the ball with 12 hits in 28 at-bats (.429) including three home runs. However, his defense at third is a work in progress and I think that leaves him pretty much out of the question (providing Pedro Alvarez makes the team and Casey McGehee plays as a back-up first baseman).
Right now my money is on Harrison and Navarro both making the team, which are two pretty decent options to have on the bench.