The hottest hitter in May for the Pittsburgh Pirates hasn’t been Andrew McCutchen. It hasn’t been Pedro Alvarez, nor has it been Neil Walker. What if I told you the Pirates’ best hitter in May has been Josh Harrison?
Harrison usually plays sparingly for the Pirates, getting occasional playing time at the corner outfield spots and third base. However, with how hot his bat has been, it has been impossible for manager Clint Hurdle to take Harrison out of the lineup.
For about two weeks, Hurdle has used Harrison as the starting right fielder and he has used him as the Pirates’ leadoff hitter. Many fans, including myself, questioned the decision to start him at all, especially to lead him off. At this point, though, no one can complain that Harrison is getting playing time.
In 2014, Harrison is hitting .296/.342/.493 in 76 plate appearances with a 133 wRC+. In May, the Pirates’ new everyday right fielder has hit .333/.385/.542 with a 159 wRC+. Not bad for a guy who is usually the last guy off the bench, right?
For now, Harrison is doing something that seemed impossible just a few weeks ago — he is quieting a lot of the “promote Gregory Polanco” campaigns. Polanco will be promoted in about three weeks, but not many people are worried about that right now.
As the Pirates’ leadoff hitter, Harrison is doing extremely well. In 45 plate appearances at the top of the Pirates’ lineup, he is hitting .341/.400/.585 with a 175 wRC+ and a .985 OPS.
If Harrison stays hot, what happens when Polanco arrives? The Pirates won’t promote Polanco to sit on the bench — he will start every day in right field — so Harrison will probably just go back to being a bench player for the Bucs. The Pirates may try Harrison at shortstop, since Jordy Mercer and Clint Barmes aren’t exactly setting the world on fire with their bats, but there is no reason to believe Harrison is capable of playing adequate defense at shortstop.
Based on his career line of .255/.289/.381, we can’t expect Harrison to stay this hot anyway. His great May is likely a hot month, rather than a sign of great things to come. For the Pirates, they probably just hope he can stay hot until the day comes for Polanco to be promoted.