Josh Harrison has had a phenomenal year so far. He has played second base, third base, shortstop, and the corner outfield spots. He’s been a leadoff hitter when the Pirates needed a leadoff guy. He was a right fielder before Gregory Polanco arrived, bridging the gap while the Pirates waited for their top prospect to arrive. He filled in as the second baseman when Neil Walker was out. Overall he’s hitting for a .304/.348/.473 line in 198 plate appearances this year, which raises the question of where he will play now that Walker has returned.
Tonight he is starting at third base, with Pedro Alvarez moving to the DH in an American League park. But the Pirates will soon return to NL parks, which will make it harder to fit Harrison in the lineup. Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle doesn’t feel Harrison needs a specific position, and can have success in a utility role.
“He has responded well, being a guy that plays to his versatility,” Hurdle said. “He’s learned positions for a reason. He’s gotten outside himself. He can play second, he can play third, he can play both corners, he can go to shortstop. Fill in there if need be. When they came up with the term ‘Super Utility’, he would be, for me, a poster child of that definition of that position right now.”
Hurdle gave Harrison praise for what he has done for the team to this point, and said that they’ll continue to find time for him.
“He carried the top of the order for a month,” Hurdle said. “When nobody was able to create some things up there, he did. He’s added value every time he’s gone on the field, as evidence by the play he makes last night in a six run lead. He’s a backyard ballplayer. So we’ll continue to find him reps by moving him around.”
With so many positions that Harrison can play, the Pirates could easily find time to get him 2-3 starts per week, plus plenty of at-bats as the top pinch hitting option off the bench. He could start a game at shortstop, start at third base against lefties, and start one or two games between second, left, and right field. It’s a good problem to have, trying to find a spot for a super utility player who is productive. That’s the type of problem that teams with a strong offense usually have. As I wrote last night, the Pirates are looking like a strong offense lately.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.