While traveling for work, I was able to stop in Altoona for a few hours on Sunday to catch a Curve game. Jared Hughes made the start for the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate, which is gearing up for the postseason. Here are a few of my thoughts after taking in a 5-4 Curve loss on a beautiful evening at Blair County Ballpark.
Josh Harrison is quickly evolving into one of my favorite Pirates prospects. Every time I see him, he is spraying line drives all over the field. Think Jose Tabata or Freddy Sanchez. His poor power numbers match his diminutive size, but he has surprisingly solid pop. Last night, he homered over the left field bleachers, up on to the grassy knoll. For anyone who has not been to Blair County Ballpark, that easily is a legitimate home run at PNC Park. I attended a game earlier in the year in which Harrison stroked three balls to the warning track. Make no mistake, there is some power in that bat. After beating out a potential double play ball in the first, he stole second and third on consecutive pitches. He didn’t see much action with the glove, but showed off his strong arm to turn a slow roller into an out. I have seen Harrison look very bad in the field at times, but I have also seen him make some excellent plays. He has the tools to develop into a decent fielder. I am very interested to see how he progresses.
Chase d’Arnaud had a very up and down day. With the caveat that I am by no means a scout, his bat looked a bit slow on an opposite field single in the first inning. However, his swing was quick enough to lift what appeared to be an inside fastball into the left field bleachers later in the game. On this night, it was an adventure for d’Arnaud in the field. He ranged to his left to glove a ground ball up the middle, but lost the handle before he was able to unleash a throw. Later, a line drive seemingly went right through his glove. Finally, a ground ball well within his reach rolled under his outstretched backhand. Despite those three blunders, he also made some very impressive plays. Twice, he teamed with second baseman Jordy Mercer to turn slick 4-6-3 double plays. On another occasion, with a runner at third, a drawn-in Mercer booted a ground ball. D’Arnaud alertly barehanded the deflection and managed to retire the hitter at first. Speaking of Mercer, he also had a rough day in the field, outside of the smooth twin killings. Along with the error that d’Arnaud transformed into a 4-6-3 putout, he let a chopper to his left roll under his glove into right field.
Jared Hughes was as expected. He was hittable with mediocre command of his pitches. All in all, a very uninteresting performance. Bryan Morris, who is pitching out of the bullpen to keep his workload under control, relieved Hughes in the seventh and pitched two quiet innings. His fastball sat around 90* – 92* MPH and touched 93* MPH on a few occasions. He threw mostly fastballs, and commanded the pitch well. His off-speed stuff was a bit erratic, but was tough to hit when he threw it in the zone. This is the second time I have seen Morris pitch, and it seems apparent that his future success will hinge greatly on the command of his secondary offerings. Ramon Aguero pitched the ninth and struggled with his control. His fastball was mostly in the 90* – 91* MPH range, and I think he touched 93* or 94* once or twice.
Andrew Lambo pinch-hit in the ninth. Needing to get on the road to Maryland as early as possible, I was standing near the left field exit by this point. Lambo looked fairly unimpressive, and was quickly retired on a shallow pop fly. Again, I did not have a great angle for his at-bat.
I will be catching a State College game on my way home Wednesday night, so watch for a recap at some point leading into the weekend.
* The Altoona stadium gun is said to read about 2 MPH slow, so take these numbers with a grain of salt.
Did you get a sense of whether Harrison might be able to play outfield? He strikes me as maybe having future value as a Willie Harris-type IF/OF utility guy.
I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t play a corner outfield spot. His arm looks plenty strong enough at third base to make the switch. He’s probably better suited for the infield though, because he’s more quick than fast. His speed’s probably only about average, although he looks faster because his legs are moving so quickly.