May 21, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Josh Harrison (5) is greeted in the dugout after scoring a run against the Baltimore Orioles during the first inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Harrison is Just A Fill-In Until Gregory Polanco Arrives

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.

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Tags: Josh Harrison Pittsburgh Pirates Travis Snider Washington Nationals

  • wonk

    Well, not only is your writing weak ( to suggest that he will make have a long career as a top of the order right fielder) but you clearly don’t understand statistics, writing error-free defense as a fielding average of .1000. Wow. I had to stop reading this item after the cut-and-pasted parenthetical because your weak writing undermined any credibility, in my humble opinion. Remember the name: Aron Minkoff. Maybe it is a genetic defect, I mean, Aron, only one A?

    • rumbunter

      The writing isn’t weak. You’re weak. Wonk off.

    • Tj Streib

      I liked his chocolate factory

    • rcruz12

      The only negative thing you could say was to make fun of his name. Leave the guy alone, it is a well-written valid story.

    • wonk

      Wow. It seems I bagged on Aron Minkoff’s writing and failure to do so with a degree of skill, providing specific examples. I just tagged on the name mockery at the end, and you decided that was my Main Point. Amain’.

    • Sam

      REALLY?! The only thing you could think of to criticize is the spelling of his name, which he did not choose? Who needs an extra useless letter in one’s name? Focus on the content of the article which is relevant.

    • wonk

      Wow.A review of my post would show that I bagged on Aron Minkoff’s skills at penning competent articles and failure to do so with competence, providing specific examples. I just tagged on the name mockery bit at the end, and you decided that was my Main Point.

  • Dylan Jacobs

    If Harrison is still hot when Polanco comes up and engulfs the right field spot, I’d like to see him at SS. He has MLB experience there, his defense is good and the only possible negitive to my suggestion is his range. Don’t get me wrong, he is a good defender but it will be his bat at the top of the order that keeps him playing everyday.

    • Tj Streib

      I’m thinking if Mercer doesn’t significantly improve with the bat by the time El Coffee arrives, J-Hay may have to take over at SS. So nice that we finally found our stopgap RF – and the game-saving plays have been an added bonus!

    • Aron Minkoff

      I do not think Harrison is a solution at shortstop. Yes he has played the position before, but shortstop is an entirely different position than third or second. I am not sure if given his size if he has the necessary fielding range of an everyday shortstop. Although I agree, if Mercer is still struggling, the Pirates may not have any other choice other than Harrison.

    • Tj Streib

      No, J-Hay is not a long term solution at SS or RF, but if Polanco gets here & he’s still got the hot hand, he may have to take over til Mercer gets his act together.

    • bucsws2014

      You and pretty much all of Bucs Nation are thinking this same thing. It’s not like Mercer is an astounding defender. He isn’t. One thing we all know Josh will do if given the opportunity is try his hardest to make it work. His fundamentals in RF are already better than Snider’s IMO. Josh did look pretty shaky in LF though. At SS it’ll simply be a question of whether his positive offensive WAR is larger than his defensive negative WAR – assuming there is a negative.

      The key here is that Josh has added to run production for the offense by finally having a capable leadoff bat and table setter – something Marte may never be. Until Josh stops producing, Clint has to keep him at leadoff. There are no other options unless the plan is to have Polanco leadoff when he gets here.

  • Tony Canella

    Anyone know if Harrison is out of options?

    • Tj Streib

      don’t think so – he wasn’t mentioned in the spring & was up & down last year frequently