Do not look now but Josh Harrison is proving himself nicely in right field for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 26 year-old is getting consistent every day starts and he is certainly making the most of them.
Since breaking into the majors in 2011 at the age of 22, Harrison has been a do-it-all kind-of guy for the Pirates, playing six different positions. He even recorded an out as a pitcher this season. He has had his moments but has never shown much in the way of potential of being anything other than a middle of the order utility man.
There were some growing pains in the outfield for a career infielder but Harrison has proved himself as a capable stop-gap until Gregory Polanco is ready to join fellow Dominican Starling Marte in the outfield.
After Marlon Byrd left the team for the Phillies in the offseason the Pirates did little to replace him and were hoping that a platoon of Travis Snider and Jose Tabata would suffice in right field. This did not go according to plan.
Snider is batting .208, with three home runs and 11 RBIs with a fielding percentage of .976. While Tabata is batting .266, with zero home runs and eight RBIs with a fielding percentage of .1000. Tabata being the more reliable option out of the two but still not impressive enough to keep in the everyday lineup.
Harrison is on pace to have a career year for the Pirates batting .296, with two home runs and six RBIs. He also has a fielding percentage of .1000. He had an impressive diving catch in the outfield tonight during the sixth inning of a 3-1 victory over the Washington Nationals.
Do not expect Harrsion to continue his stellar play for the remainder of the season. This could be the case of a player preforming exceptionally well for a brief stint given an opportunity to play every day, but he is playing too well for his own potential right now. It would certainly be surprising to suggest that he will make have a long career as a top of the order right fielder.
Gregory Polanco is still the long-term plan for the Pirates and he will arrive in the majors soon enough. He is batting .373 this season and tearing up minor league pitching. The consensus top-15 prospect will take over for Harrison as soon as the Pirates brass decides that he is ready for the big leagues.
That being said, the Pirates will ride Harrison’s hot play for as long as possible to allow for Polanco to have more time to develop in AAA. Whether that last throughout June into July remains to be seen. A lot of analysts seem to believe that he is ready to be called up now but the Pirates management seems content on letting him thrive in AAA for as long as possible. Harrison is distracting a lot of fans from the “Polanco watch.”
Harrsion’s success provides for a nice story though. He is the small guy, a fan favorite, the player who is always overlooked and never really considered to be much of anything in regards to being a major contributor.
His hot play has certainly provided a spark that has helped keep this season alive. The surging Pirates have won three straight games and are just five games under .500. If the Pirates had to rely on the Snider/Tabata platoon than who knows where they would be.
For now anyway, Josh Harrison is the Pirates everyday right fielder, and he deserves to be so until his production decreases. He is electric to watch and is the exact type of player that you need to have on your roster. It will be interesting to see how long he can sustain being an every day starter.