Josh Harrison Breakout: Real or Fantasy

Josh Harrison was not on anyone’s radar going into last season, yet alone ending up as a top 10 third baseman. The right-hander is now known after hitting .315 with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases. So what are the chances of him coming close to a repeat season or even showing some improvement?

To say Harrison was not well reguarded coming into his season and any time in the past is an understatement. Here are some of his FG+ reports from the last three seasons

2012

Unless you’re planning on drafting Pedro Alvarez and subsequently burying him on the bench as your team strives for fourth place, avoid Harrison.

2013

Josh Harrison has two seasons in the 70s wRC+ range. He projects as the Pirates’ super-utility man, and unless his decent minor league numbers translate perfectly into the majors, which they almost certainly won’t, then his fantasy value should be relatively minimal. He has potential, but not without steady playing time.

2014

Probably just a deep league waiver-wire pickup when injury thrusts him into a short-term starting situation, Josh Harrison is probably not worth thinking about on draft day.

Coming into this season, he was not considered a prospect and in 575 PA over three seasons he hit 7 home runs with 13 stolen bases and a .250 average. Not exactly great numbers, but not horrible either. With those stats, he found himself as the Pirates utility man. Coming into the season, he had played both corner outfield spots, second base, third base, short stop and third base.

Using one of my favorite little projections tools, I found the chances of him breaking outlast year. Going to my website BaseballHeatmaps, I have a tool which looks at how players similar to the selected player’s projections performed the next season.

I looked for 27-year-olds who were within 30 points  Harrison’s projection in AVG, OBP, SLG and ISO from 1980 to 2014 with a reliability within 0.1*. Here are his actual and projected values and those players most similar to him.

Name Year AB AVG OBP SLG ISO OPS
Josh Harrison 2014 – Projected 252 0.254 0.299 0.381 0.127 0.680
Josh Harrison 2014 – Actual 520 0.315 0.347 0.490 0.175 0.837
Name Year AB AVG OBP SLG ISO OPS
Randy Ready 1987 350 0.309 0.423 0.520 0.211 0.943
Chris Hoiles 1992 310 0.274 0.384 0.507 0.232 0.890
Alex Ochoa 1999 277 0.300 0.404 0.466 0.166 0.870
Tony Graffanino 1999 130 0.315 0.364 0.492 0.177 0.857
Josh Barfield 2009 20 0.400 0.400 0.450 0.050 0.850
Mike Macfarlane 1991 267 0.277 0.330 0.506 0.229 0.836
Pat Borders 1990 346 0.286 0.319 0.497 0.211 0.816
Tony Armas 1980 628 0.279 0.310 0.500 0.221 0.810
Dave Engle 1983 374 0.305 0.351 0.449 0.144 0.800
Daryl Sconiers 1985 98 0.286 0.371 0.429 0.143 0.799
Kevin Young 1996 132 0.242 0.301 0.470 0.227 0.770
Billy Hatcher 1987 564 0.296 0.352 0.415 0.119 0.767
David Bell 1999 597 0.268 0.331 0.432 0.164 0.764
Jesus Tavarez 1998 11 0.182 0.308 0.455 0.273 0.762
Marlon Anderson 2001 522 0.293 0.337 0.422 0.128 0.758
Nate Schierholtz 2011 335 0.278 0.326 0.430 0.152 0.756
Omar Infante 2008 317 0.293 0.338 0.416 0.123 0.755
Paul Householder 1985 299 0.258 0.320 0.418 0.161 0.738
Eli Marrero 2000 102 0.226 0.302 0.422 0.196 0.723
Tommy Gregg 1990 239 0.264 0.322 0.389 0.126 0.711
Joe Oliver 1992 485 0.270 0.316 0.388 0.118 0.704
Bill Nahorodny 1980 157 0.242 0.287 0.414 0.172 0.701
Luis Lopez 1997 178 0.270 0.330 0.365 0.096 0.695
Rick Leach 1984 88 0.261 0.320 0.375 0.114 0.695
Ronny Cedeno 2010 468 0.256 0.293 0.383 0.126 0.675
Jeremy Reed 2008 286 0.269 0.314 0.360 0.091 0.674
Roger Bernadina 2011 309 0.243 0.302 0.363 0.120 0.664
Carlos Martinez 1992 228 0.263 0.283 0.377 0.114 0.661
Greg Myers 1993 290 0.255 0.298 0.362 0.107 0.660
Mike Matheny 1997 320 0.244 0.294 0.338 0.094 0.631
Max Venable 1984 71 0.239 0.276 0.352 0.113 0.628
Jose Nieves 2002 97 0.289 0.303 0.309 0.021 0.612
Manny Alexander 1998 264 0.227 0.278 0.330 0.102 0.608
Tom Nieto 1987 105 0.200 0.276 0.314 0.114 0.590
Alberto Gonzalez 2010 186 0.247 0.277 0.301 0.054 0.578
Milt Cuyler 1995 88 0.205 0.271 0.307 0.102 0.578
Damon Berryhill 1990 53 0.189 0.254 0.321 0.132 0.575
Rob Johnson 2010 178 0.191 0.293 0.281 0.090 0.574
Jeff Hamilton 1991 94 0.223 0.255 0.298 0.075 0.553
Greg Litton 1991 127 0.181 0.250 0.276 0.095 0.526
Bobby Clark 1982 90 0.211 0.209 0.289 0.078 0.498
Kiko Garcia 1980 311 0.199 0.255 0.235 0.035 0.490
Steve Decker 1992 43 0.163 0.280 0.186 0.023 0.466
Damian Rolls 2004 117 0.162 0.231 0.205 0.043 0.436
Tony Pena 2008 225 0.169 0.189 0.209 0.040 0.398
Sandy Martinez 1997 2 0.000 0.333 0.000 0.000 0.333
Todd Dunwoody 2002 6 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000

No name sticks out as a most own fantasy stud. Just a bunch of ‘blah’ players with Nate Schierholtz and Roger Bernadina being the most recent examples. Harrison didn’t have the best season in the list, but it was top ten considering the at bats and overall OPS.

Since no player in the last 35 years has broken out with Harrison’s skill set, I will taken my chances and guess he won’t either. That being said, he has value. If he is starting at third base, he is a must own in NL-only leagues. In deeper leagues, I love his versatility off the bench. Depending on your league rules, he could be qualified at 3B (72 games), OF (52 games), 2B (17 games) and SS (8 games). I don’t see myself starting him regularly, but instead using him for the bench to fill in for hitters with tough match ups or who have an off day. The other key is if Harrison struggles and loses his starting playing time. A bench bat is useless in fantasy baseball.

Josh Harrison has little upside and a huge amount of downside going into 2015. I just don’t see myself hedging my bets on a player who at best may end being Omar Infante or Tony Graffanino. At worst, he could be back in the minors.  He had a great 2014 season, but I would not expect a repeat in 2015. While most owners will expect some regression, he could just fall off the map. Own with caution.

 

 

 

*Reliability means the amount of player data vice league average data used for the projection. Players or part-timers will have lower reliability then players that have been playing full time for 3+ years.





Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won four FSWA Awards including on for his Mining the News series. He's won Tout Wars three times, LABR twice, and got his first NFBC Main Event win in 2021. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

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Patrick
8 years ago

Harrison is the type of player who I like to acquire. I will likely be able to get him for cheap and if he puts up anything close to last year’s numbers it will be well worth it. If he struggles he is not a hard player to cut.