Josh Harrison Continues To Prove People Wrong

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Josh Harrison is off to a great start in 2016 both at the plate and in the field, and he continues to prove his doubters wrong.

When the 2014 season began Josh Harrison was the 25th man on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster and was an utility player. However, Harrison busted out in 2014 slashing .315/.347/.490/.837 with a 137 wRC+ and a WAR of 5.0. This fantastic performance earned Josh Harrison an All-Star bid in 2014.

Josh Harrison’s 2014 season led to him entering the 2015 season as the Pittsburgh Pirates starting third baseman. Harrison got off to a slow start in 2015, suffered a thumb injury, and slid back into an utility role. Despite only playing in 114 games, Josh Harrison still posted strong numbers in 2015. Josh Harrison finished his 2015 season campaign with a .287/.327/.390/.717 slash line and a 1.3 WAR.

Then this past offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates traded second baseman Neil Walker to the New York Mets in exchange for left-handed pitcher Jon Niese. There were a few reasons the Pirates made this trade, Walker’s salary in arbitration was going to rise to around, if not over, ten million dollars which is more than he is worth. Also, the Pittsburgh Pirates needed starting rotation help more than they needed Neil Walker and part of the reason for this was Josh Harrison.

Having Josh Harrison on the roster made it a lot easier to part ways with Walker. This is because Harrison had proven the previous two seasons that he could be a good hitter in the Major Leagues even when seeing everyday at bats. Also, Harrison is a far superior defender at second base to Walker.

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So in December Neil Walker was shipped to the Big Apple, Josh Harrison became the Pittsburgh Pirates starting second baseman, and he has not disappointed at all. So far this season Josh Harrison is slashing .329/.363/.435/.798 with a .346 wOBA, 119 wRC+, and a WAR of 0.9. Harrison’s .329 batting average and .363 on base percentage are both career highs.

Josh Harrison’s speed has also flashed this season. Harrison is third on the team in stolen bases with eight, and his career high of 18 in 2014 seems bound to surpassed. Furthermore, Harrison is second in the National League, behind only teammate Starling Marte, with 11 infield hits.

Maybe the best part of Harrison this year has been his stellar defensive at second base. Josh Harrison has shown great range and athleticism at second base, and so far this year he has three defensive runs saved. This is a very pleasant change from Neil Walker’s career -12 defensive runs saved, his cement feet,  and lack of range.

The only reason for concern with Josh Harrison right now is his .357 BABIP which is well above the league average of .300. However, some players have the ability to sustain a high BABIP throughout the season due to good speed and a high contact rate and Josh Harrison is one such hitter. Which he proved in 2014 and 2015 when he posted BABIPs of .353 and .336 respectively. So, the only reason for concern is not really concerning at all.

Entering the season there were still some people who doubted Josh Harrison’s abilities to be an everyday player. Some people said that 2014 was a fluky, flash in the pan type season that he would never duplicate. And while, yes, Harrison may never again post a .490 slugging percentage or a .175 ISO again like he did in 2014, there is no reason he can not be a .300 hitter year in and year out.

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In his first season as the Pittsburgh Pirates starting second baseman Josh Harrison has proved any remaining doubters wrong. Harrison has hit for average, gotten on base at the best clip of his career, and has played strong defense. Josh Harrison is continuing to prove to be both a fan favorite, as well as one of the Pittsburgh Pirates best all-around players.

*- All stats and defensive metrics via Fangraphs