BRADENTON, Fla. – It seems like every infielder that comes up through the Pirates’ system can play every position on the field. Well, maybe not that extreme, but the Pirates definitely preach versatility with their minor league players. They don’t develop players at one specific spot unless they are top prospects and absolute future starters (Josh Bell, Kevin Newman are two examples of this). For everyone else, new positions are given in order to increase versatility and increase future opportunities in the majors.

This isn’t a new trend. They’ve been doing this for as long as I’ve been covering the system, which is almost as long as Neal Huntington has been the General Manager. The first year I covered the team in Lynchburg, they had Jordy Mercer playing mostly shortstop, but also getting work at third base. They had Chase d’Arnaud splitting time between second base and shortstop. And then they added a prospect at mid-season to play third base, second base, and one game in left field: Josh Harrison.

Harrison is a prime example of why the Pirates take this approach with their infielders. He arrived in 2012, playing second, short, third, left field, and right field. He even pitched in one game in 2013. Then, in 2014, all of that versatility — plus a lot of injuries and poor performance — led to him getting regular playing time all over the field, eventually settling in as a starter at second base in 2016.

The current plan for the Pirates is to have Harrison at second base for the 2017 season, although there could be some opportunity for him to move around to other positions. The Pirates might do this to try and get the comfort back that Harrison had in 2014.

“The directive out there is for him to move around a little bit,” Clint Hurdle said. “There’s a comfort zone at second, but actually we’re revisiting the comfort zone he had in 2014.”

Harrison has been good defensively at second base, ranking as one of the best defensive second basemen last year. He also ranks high in base running. His offense puts him at below average overall for the position, making him more valuable as a super utility player. Of course, that term has a lot different meaning than it did when Harrison first arrived in the majors.

“It [was] just a label that a guy couldn’t play,” Harrison said of the utility term when he first arrived. “I’m glad that label is changing, because you’ve got a lot of guys who bring a lot to the table. Their opportunity may not be at one position. Their opportunities might be at more than one position. It’s not being a bad player. It’s being someone who can help the team.”

The Pirates have a wave of players who are arriving in the majors or close to arriving in the majors who will use Harrison as a guide. Adam Frazier made the jump last year as a super utility player, and made a few starts by the end of the year. Alen Hanson now finds his best opportunity to make the majors as a super utility player. Down in the minors they have Max Moroff, Erich Weiss, and others taking the same approach.

The irony of the situation is that these players are looking to follow Harrison’s path of being a super utility player to establish value in the majors, and possibly eventually start in the big leagues. But the best way for these guys to get a starting role would be to replace Harrison, since every other position is locked up for the next few years. I don’t know if anyone would be taking over for Harrison as a full-time starter this year, but Harrison could give them some advice on at least finding a way to stick as a utility player.

“Stay ready and just work, continue to be prepared,” Harrison said on what the young players need to do. “Because you never know what position you’re going to be called upon, and how long. I was in the minor leagues bouncing around, playing second and third. I came up in 2011 to play strictly pretty much third, but then the following year I went back to the outfield. If you’re one of those guys who played multiple positions, just make sure you’re sharp at all of them. … You just have to be prepared for any situation that may arise. We’ve all seen baseball. It’s unpredictable.”

Even though these players are eventually competing to replace Harrison, don’t think that this will change his approach in helping those younger players develop. He received that treatment from veteran players when he first arrived, and is ready to pass the advice along to the next wave of utility players.

“I remember being a younger guy coming up, and Clint Barmes was a guy when I was playing second and short, and he would give me certain things — some that I used, some that I didn’t,” Harrison said. “Going to the outfield, I’d talk to Cutch. When I was first coming up, Xavier Paul was a guy that played three different positions. Not necessarily guys that played infield and outfield. But they can kind of give me [advice] … to make your flow of work more easy. Kind of make it efficient.”

The 2017 season will provide an interesting dynamic. Hurdle said that they don’t yet know which role will bring more comfort for him, since he’s shown comfort as both a starter and a super utility player. And as normal injuries take place, it will be interesting to see if they get Harrison in a mix with other utility players, moving everyone around to different spots.

“There was a time last year where I played one inning in right field,” Harrison said. “So I’m not going to completely throw everything out. I’m going to play second, but also know that baseball presents us with certain obstacles and challenges that I may be called upon to go to third, or maybe go back to the outfield.”

Harrison can play eight positions on the field, even serving as an emergency pitcher. But there is one spot he will rule out: Catching.

“I think we can go ahead and scratch that one,” Harrison joked. “If we had to go for me to complete the nine positions, that’s one position that I wouldn’t mind to say I only played eight.”

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32 COMMENTS

  1. I was reading an article today on the top 100 prospects using KATOH projections. Meadows was 4th on the 2 lists they used(KATOH-, and regular KATOH). Bell was next on both lists, then Glasnow, then Keller and Newman, I expected that to be it for the Pirates, but low and behold, there was a 6th player on both lists, and it is not who you think. Maybe not even one of the first 5 or even 10 guys you would guess, it was none other than Max Moroff. I know it isn’t a big name, but I found it interesting that a guy that isn’t one of our top 10 prospects is expected to have the 6th best WAR total over his first 6 years in MLB.
    Sorry, thought that was interesting.

    • Would you prefer another article on the changes Tyler Glasnow and the rest of the pitchers made to their change-ups?

        • Bruce, you have no idea the amount of work that goes into these articles, or how difficult it is to catch up with the players. Not to mention, most of the lower level prospects don’t even arrive until next week.

          I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: If you’re that upset about the site that you threaten to quit every time there’s an article you don’t like, or every time it’s not customized to your schedule, then I will gladly refund your final year and you don’t have to worry about this anymore. But every time I say that, you ignore the offer and just continue complaining.

          For everyone else who is reasonable, there are a few articles going up tonight, along with some articles on the low level prospects in the next few days, featuring many videos and interviews I’ve been gathering over the last week.

      • Tim is to busy looking through his camera pictures to provide game streams or insight on what the Pirates do with a “closer” who may not be able to close or Huges and his idiotic contract.

        • I think Tim would need permission from MLB to do any sort of live stream. With the amount of money this site brings in, that is probably not an option financially.

          I think I have said before, you should start your own site and offer up some competition to this site. It would be interesting to see what competition would do.

          • Yeah, live streams are illegal during the game. It can only be done during batting practice. You need the broadcast rights for the game. I’d be getting sued by MLB and ROOT on that one.

        • Just because YOU don’t like an article, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be here. If you have complaints, why not email Tim directly instead of clogging up the comments with your constant whining. You have got to be the biggest baby I’ve ever seen in a comment section.

          Take Tim’s offer and take your refund and go away. You offer no value to this site.

        • As I say every time you do this attention grab, just say the word and I’ll refund your final year. I’d hate to keep you here if you’re that unhappy.

          I’m not doing “the customer is always right” here. I’m sick of this out of you, especially right now. I’ve had a fucking sinus infection for the last week. I had a migraine for two days straight last week. I had a fever for two days over the weekend. I’m still having issues as I type this, with headaches the last two days. Yet I’ve been at the field every day, reporting with information and details that no one else has, writing multiple articles per day, writing what I feel have been some of my best articles with the Glasnow coverage, and getting information for some very detailed and interesting articles that will be coming soon.

          You are currently paying $2.22 per month for this coverage. If you think you’re not getting value from what I’ve written so far, then please accept my offer to either leave and take your refund, or just stop whining about this every time you want attention. Because I’m looking around, and it seems like you’re alone on this island.

          • Tim,
            I thought I would wait a bit before responding.

            1. I don’t recall you ever offering a refund – if you did it was a stupid mistake – don’t ever do it for any reason. Block comments from folks that you find annoying or objectionable but never refund money.
            2. Your whining about being sick – in pain is really pathetic and you should never do that again – ever. Your contract with you subscribers is for information on Pirate Prospects – NOBODY asks you for a refund for the month or so they don’t read the site because they are incapacitated or traveling.
            Man up and do your fucking job – the fact that you weren’t is what led to my comments – take a good look at the last month and tell me and your subscribers you did not grade a D- or worse..
            3. Rethink what you focus on – lots of sites are happy to write about Bell, Meadows, Glasnow and Tailon – can/do you add value to what they do. And lots of sites can and do cover the Major League Team and frankly do a much better job than you have done – or can do.
            4. GOOD NEWS…
            THIS IS MY LAST COMMENT EVER ON YOUR SITE. NO NEED TO REFUND MY LAST YEAR – SEE ABOVE…

            • Bruce Humbert is a fucking duchebag but seriously Bruce, I’d like to apologize on behalf of Tim that he wasn’t able to report on Sam Kennelly’s off-season pool parties in Australia the way you would have liked you old bastard.

            • God you are a miserable person. I can’t imagine what your homelife is like that you need to come on here to get the attention you obviously aren’t getting anywhere else. I really hope this makes you feel better about yourself, and honestly, I feel sorry for you. Not bad for you, but sorry for you. You have real issues, and if you can’t see that, it’s even worse than I thought. Feel free to keep posting because we can ignore you, and this probably does you more good than it does anyone else harm.

            • 1. I don’t block anyone or ignore anyone in the comments, even if I do find them annoying. Also, if I see someone constantly whining about their subscription and counting the days until it’s over the way you have, I’ll offer a refund.

              2. I’m not whining about being sick. I’m saying that I’m not in the mood for your shit this week because I’m putting out content while being sick. You are the only one right now who is saying that I’ve got a D- grade in the last month.

              3. I’ll never stop covering something because others are covering it. I’m also not going to let the Trib, PG, or anyone else just have the Bell, Meadows, Glasnow, and Taillon coverage from here on out, because we simply do it better when it comes to prospects. Look at our stories on Glasnow, Taillon, Bell, Meadows, etc and look at everyone else. Tell me honestly that we don’t do as good of a job.

              Also something to consider: I broke the Glasnow changeup story, then expanded on the Taillon changeup story. Now, every single media interview involves other people asking players about their changeup. My reporting and stories at the start of camp have set the tone for coverage at other outlets. But sure. They do it better. Of course, I take your opinion on this with a grain of salt, since you’re giving a D- grade.

  2. I know I will be criticized for this. But I have always been a fan of Josh Harrison. Love the enthusiasm, the hustle and defense. Am I hoping for a bounce back year with his hitting? Yes! Josh is a very easy guy to root for. Let’s go Bucs!

    • couldn’t agree more. I expected more from him last year…..I was wrong. I think this is his last chance to be a fulltime starter or get dealt.

    • Who in their right mind would criticize you for liking Harrison?!

      Hell, his likability is half the reason so many folks bought into his 2014 season hook, line, and sinker. They *wanted* to believe, because he seems to be a fantastic person and plays the game right.

      • Agree, and the other half was the .315/.347/.490/.837 OPS, as a result of the 38 doubles, 7 triples, 13 HR – 58 EBH. Almost made many Pirate fans forget that trade in 2009 that brought him to the Pirates in the first place.

    • I agree that he is easy to root for and I like him a lot, but I also like Hansen and Frazier and would not complain if one of them played well enough to push Harrison to the bench.

      • Frazier would have to take a major step forward with the D to push j-hay to the bench. Hanson would need to show the bat that made him a prospect once upon a time. I root for Hanson because deep down I believe someday he’ll put it all together.

      • Harrison gave us all a rush in 2014. But, 2015 and 2016 left a lot to be desired. Now he is in his last 2 years of that contract and is owed $18 mil. The Pirates have not been able to move him.

        Probably 3 or more guys in camp able to play defense as well as Harrison (including Hanson and Newman) that could be given opportunities similar to those afforded a young Harrison in 2011, 2012, and 2013.

        As long as the Pirates are on the hook for the last 2 years of that contract, Harrison will be playing regularly, and we will continue hoping he can validate that 2014 season. And, the Pirates have a raft full of guys who will need to be traded elsewhere.

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