Pittsburgh Pirates INF/OF Josh Harrison has drawn interest from several clubs, and as Pirates Breakdown previously reported, the Colorado Rockies are one of those clubs.
Pirates Breakdown was the first to report that the Colorado Rockies were among the teams interested in acquiring Pittsburgh Pirates INF/OF Josh Harrison:
Add the Rockies to the list of teams interested in Josh Harrison, as per an industry source.
— Pirates Breakdown (@pbcbreakdown) December 27, 2017
Today, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports was the first national reporter to note that the Rockies were, indeed, interested in Harrison’s services. From his column:
The Mets have been looking for a second baseman, and the Blue Jays for middle infield help, so he’d work for either of those teams as well. The Rockies are a bit more curious. But they could put Ian Desmond back on his intended first base spot, and potentially use Harrison in a corner outfield spot.
Additionally, Pirates Breakdown learned of two Rockies prospects that are of interest to Pittsburgh:
P Yency Almonte and 3b Ryan Vilade said to have caught the Pirates eye
— Pirates Breakdown (@pbcbreakdown) December 27, 2017
At first glance, a Rockies-Pirates trade involving Harrison does not make a whole lot of sense. The Rockies infield is obviously set at third base with Nolan Arenado, and at second base with D.J. LeMahieu. Those two positions represent the bulk of Harrison’s time in the field the past two seasons, thus pushing Harrison towards a corner outfield spot in Coors Field. Even there, the Rockies have a solid option in Gerardo Parra and a capable bat in Ian Desmond.
As Heyman notes, Desmond may move to first base full-time as the club would prefer should Harrison be brought in. It’s a convoluted puzzle to be sure, but the Rockies would certainly find a spot for Harrison to play at regularly, to say nothing of his ability to bounce around the field.
Regardless of how the Rockies would re-configure their lineup to accommodate Harrison, does Colorado have the prospect capital to turn the Pirates’ heads? Let’s take a brief look at each of the prospects mentioned above and attempt to answer that question:
MLB Pipline has Ryan Vilade— the Rockies’ seventh ranked prospect — listed as a shortstop, but third base has widely been reported as his final destination. The Pittsburgh Pirates currently have Ke’Bryan Hayes penciled in as a third baseman of the future, however. Vilade’s arm is his best tool, with a 60 rating, and while his power tool rates at a 55, his overall hit tools are a point of contention. His swing has been chracterized as “long” at times, but nevertheless the bat speed is there. Between the power and burgeoning hit tool, he carries 20 home run potential, and should have the ability to play second base as well.
However, the Pirates have other plans at all of the positions that Vilade can play, and bringing him in the fold would require some re-thinking from the organization in regards to Hayes, Kevin Newman and Kevin Kramer. Hayes took some strides in 2017, but his power tool (still just rated at 45 by most prospect watchers) lags. The hype around Newman has cooled considerably, and Kramer will have to show that the power surge he displayed before his wrist injury in 2017 is still there.
Vilade is not an obvious fit, but if the organization feels that he has more power potential than other in-house options — at either third, second or short — bringing him makes a bit more sense.
Colorado’s 10th-ranked prospect is RHP Yency Almonte, a late round (17th) 2012 draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels. He throws a 60 rated fastball, a 55 slider and a 45 changeup. He can touch 98 on his heat, which has some sinking action, and his slider seems to lack a bit of bite. He projects as a middle of the rotation starter at best, or a high-leverage reliever at worst.
There’s really not much else to say about Almonte. He was drafted out of high school and has worked his way up to Triple-A. He struggled there, to the tune of a 4.89 ERA and a .315 batting average against. He has an ETA of 2018 listed by many, though the reality is the Pittsburgh Pirates would likely stash him away for another year barring a rash of injuries.
The “dream get” for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a potential Rockies trade for Harrison would be INF Ryan McMahon. McMahon is the number 56-ranked prospect overall, and the second ranked second base prospect. He can play first, second and third. He excelled at Triple-A last season. in 70 games, he slashed .374/.411/.612. His overall rating is a 55, including a 55 power tool and 50 overall hit tool. He appeared in 17 games with the big league club, and struggled. He struck out five times in just 19 at-bats, hitting .158/.333/.211. Still, many evaluators are quite high on him.
To land him, the Pirates would need to get creative, likely sending a prospect back to the Rockies and potentially eating some of Harrison’s salary as well. That’s a tough ask, and McMahon is about as solid of an infield prospect as you will see.
More realistic options — both from the Rockies’ willingness to give them up and the match with the Pittsburgh Pirates needs — could be C Tom Murphy (#9 in Colorado’s system) and LHP Sam Howard (#12). Murphy carries a 55 rated power tool as well as a 55 arm, both highly desirable for a team with no notable catching prospects in their pipeline. Howard has three pitches on the verge of plus territory, with a 55 rated fastball and a particularly deceptive 55 changeup. The Pirates lack a solid left-handed prospect to go along with Taylor Hearn. Adding another would not hurt.
Though the clubs appear to be ill-fitting partners in a Harrison trade at first, there is enough intrigue in the Rockies’ system to perhaps turn the Pittsburgh Pirates’ heads.
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