Sep 25, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Josh Harrison (5) scores on a wild pitch in the seventh inning of their game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field. The Pirates won 10-1. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Pirates’ fans got a huge surprise during the 2014 season with the rapid rise of utility man Josh Harrison highlighted with an All-Star game appearance.
Harrison definitely came out of the wood work with his fantastic season as he hit .315 with 13 home runs, 52 RBI, 77 runs and 18 stolen bases. He also could play well defensively anywhere he was placed. All this added up to 4.9 WAR according to FanGraphs, respect from the rest of the National League and love from fans all over western Pennsylvania.
Harrison was definitely one of the best stories in all of MLB last season, but with that year now in the past, he will have to put it behind him and realize his talent will not be overlooked in 2015. FanGraphs projections have Harrison considerably regressing to the mean. The baseball analytics site believes his average will drop more than 30 points to .282, with his homer (10), runs (65) and stole bases (17) also falling off.
Of course these projections do not really mean anything, but they are fun to look act. Players never admit they look at numbers like that, but if any of this comes across to Harrison, he will probably scoff at it initially and then hit the batting cages. Harrison was a fan-favorite because he had had some clutch moments; a fantastic glove, a great smile and an attitude that rubbed off on his teammates. This was clear when Andrew McCutchen went down with an injury late in the summer and Harrison took to leading the team. If a second-half MVP award existed, Harrison would have been right in the mix.
Harrison benefits from having one of the best players in baseball around him that will allow him to see better pitching. McCutchen is one of the most feared players in the league and because he is one of the best at getting on base, keeping Harrison off the bases in front of him will be key for opposing teams. Because of this, Harrison will see more strikes than maybe any other hitter in the league. No one will want to walk him and allow McCutchen to beat him with one swing of the bat.
Harrison may be predicted to fall off in 2015, but with McCutchen giving him back up, he could take these projections and throw them aside, much like he did to opposing pitching in 2014.