The 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates face their first taste of adversity, as the club has announced that longtime infielder Josh Harrison will miss at least six weeks with a broken hand.
After being re-evaluated today, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison will miss at least six weeks with a broken bone in his hand, as the team announced today.
Harrison Update: Josh Harrison was examined by Allegheny Health Network hand specialist Dr. Ed Birdsong today, and it was determined that he sustained a fracture to the 5th metacarpal of the left hand.
The estimated return to competition is approximately six weeks.
— Pirates (@Pirates) April 16, 2018
The news is not entirely shocking. The injury, sustained when Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Urena missed badly on a fastball, was eerily similar to the injury that prematurely ended his 2017 season. Despite being hit by a pitch approximately 2,411 times last season (slight exaggeration), this was the first beaning that Harrison had endured in 2018.
How will the Pittsburgh Pirates back-fill Harrison’s production?
The Pittsburgh Pirates’ in-house replacement for Harrison in the field will likely be some combination/split of Sean Rodriguez and Adam Frazier. In his short career to date, Frazier has appeared in 58 games as a second baseman, while Rodriguez has logged 276 career games at the keystone. Both are adequate defenders at second; Frazier carries an even 0 defensive runs saved while Rodriguez is a +24, though 12 of those saved runs came in 2010. Neither have had a negative DRS rating across any significant sample size.
Perhaps a question of more import is how Frazier, Rodriguez or any other replacement would replace Harrison’s production at the plate. While Harrison had been off on a somewhat modest start, with a .263/.328/.351 slash, he has scored 12 runs in his first 14 games. Though his slash may not reflect it, Harrison was drawing the best walk rate of his career to date at a 7.8 percent clip while maintaining his customary low strikeout figure – 14.4 percent.
Slotting in Frazier for regular playing time represents a bit of an upgrade – Frazier has a .268/.336/.386 slash over his last 365 days. Rodriguez may provide some more pop as many will remember his productive 2016 season, in which he hit 18 home runs. Perhaps more regular playing time will help Rodriguez rediscover his power stroke, which would fit right in with this Pittsburgh Pirates lineup. The left-handed hitting Frazier and righty Rodriguez form a natural platoon, so there is a good chance that manager Clint Hurdle might want to play some percentages.
Coming up to take Harrison’s roster spot is very likely to be Max Moroff, who is on a tear with Triple-A Indianapolis to the tune of an .846 OPS over his first 25 at-bats. Moroff showed some promise in a similar situation over the club’s final 2017 stretch, giving him the inside track on the callup. The club might want to call up an outfielder and consider Frazier to be strictly an infield option for the time being. If so, Jose Osuna or Jordan Luplow figure to be the first options available. Luplow might get the nod over Osuna as the club would likely prefer to keep Osuna at AAA to get regular third base reps.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will face their first true test in terms of their depth, and the answers shown will likely tell us more about their ultimate 2018 fate.