Josh Harrison

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Joshua Isaiah Harrison

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Biographical Information[edit]

Josh Harrison opened 2010 in AA and made his major league debut a little over a year later. He is the brother of former minor leaguer Vince Harrison, the nephew of former major leaguer John Shelby and the cousin of minor leaguers JaVon Shelby, Jeremy Shelby and John Shelby III.


As a freshman at the University of Cincinnati, he hit .367/.473/.493 with 67 runs in 58 games and 10 steals in 11 tries. He was second in the Big East Conference in runs behind Craig Cooper and 5th in OBP. He played catcher, second, short and third as well as both corner outfield spots in a busy year in the field. Collegiate Baseball named him a Freshman All-American.

Josh batted .327/.403/.545 with 59 runs and 56 RBI in 56 games in 2007 and was 21-for-23 in steal attempts. He tied for 6th in the Big East in runs and was 9th in slugging. He was named second-team All-Big East. The infielder hit .264/.314/.365 with 14 steals in 18 tries that summer for the Cotuit Kettleers, starting at third base in the elite Cape Cod League.

As a junior, Harrison had a batting line of .378/.437/.559 with 66 runs and 54 RBI in 56 games. He stole 32 bases in 40 attempts. He was 4th in the Big East in average, second in doubles and was third in steals. He was named All-Conference at second base and split Big East Player of the Year honors with Chris Dominguez. Collegiate Baseball named him second-team All-American behind Jemile Weeks. The Chicago Cubs chose him in the sixth round of the 2008 amateur draft.

Cubs chain[edit]

After signing with scout Lukas McKnight, Harrison split the summer of '08 between the Boise Hawks (.351/.462/.509, 27 R, 25 RBI in 33 G) and the Peoria Chiefs (.262/.286/.336 in 31 G). Had he qualified, he would have been third in the Pioneer League in batting average.

Harrison started 2009 with Peoria and batted .337/.377/.479 with 7 triples and 51 runs in 79 games, stealing 16 bases in 25 tries. Had he qualified, he would have easily led the Midwest League in average. Promoted to the Daytona Cubs, he slipped a bit, to .286/.351/.400 with 10 steals in 11 attempts in 18 games. Overall, his .327 average led Cubs farmhands that year. On July 30, he was traded with Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart to the Pittsburgh Pirates in return for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow.

Pirates chain[edit]

After the deal, Harrison was assigned to the Lynchburg Hillcats. He hit .270/.289/.362 in 34 games for the 2009 Lynchburg Hillcats then did well in the playoffs to help them win the Carolina League pennant.

Moved up to the AA Altoona Curve for 2010, Josh has started off with a very good OBP but little pop, at .295/.372/.353 in 40 games.

Harrison made his major league debut with the Pirates on May 31, 2011, going 2 for 4 with a run and an RBI as the starting third baseman against the New York Mets. He got to play because of injury problems to starting 3B Pedro Alvarez. It took him a while, but he hit his first major league homer on August 23rd, a solo shot at PNC Park off the Milwaukee Brewers' Marco Estrada. In 65 games for the 2011 Bucs, he hit .272/.281/.374 with only 3 walks in 204 plate appearances. He fielded .956 in 50 games at the hot corner.

Harrison spent all of 2012 in the majors, hitting .233/.279/.345 for a 73 OPS+. His main value came from his versatility in a utility role, playing 28 games at 2B, 25 at SS, 14 at 3B and 12 in RF. He spent a good chunk of 2013 back with Indianapolis (.317/.373/.507, 29 2B, 50 R, 17 SB in 64 G) but also played 60 games for the 2013 Pirates, again in a pinch-hitting and utility man role; he hit .250/.290/.409 for a 97 OPS+, not bad for a bench guy. In Game 3 of the NLDS, he scored the winning run. Pinch-running for Justin Morneau in the bottom of the 8th with a 3-3 tie, he wound up scoring on a single by Pedro Alvarez.

Harrison then had a dream season in 2014. Again slated to be the Pirates' jack-of-all-trades, he forced his way into the regular line-up with a great first half that saw him hit .297 with 34 runs scored after getting only 23 at-bats in April, earning him a spot on the National League squad at the 2014 All-Star Game. His performance was particularly remarkable as players were raving about the Pirates' great athletic young outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, and yet the little man had managed to elbow his way out of their shadow! The game of July 27th, a 7-5 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field, stood as a microcosm of his great season: he went 4 for 6 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs as the Bucs' lead-off hitter, starting in left field and later taking over for Pedro Alvarez at third base. In the 6th inning, he managed to steal two bases on the same play. He stole but overran second base, and when he realized that Rockies SS Josh Rutledge had failed to tag him after he had slid past the bag, he got up and ran for his life towards third, where he was caught in a rundown; luckily, the Rockies completely botched the rundown, allowing him after five ineffectual throws to evade an attempted tag by catcher Wilin Rosario, who had rushed in to help, and be safe at third with a second stolen base. He briefly contemplated heading home, as it had been left uncovered in the confusion, but stayed put and was later driven in on a double by pinch-hitter Ike Davis. He crowned his day's work with a solo homer off Rex Brothers in the 8th that put the Pirates ahead to stay. On August 22nd, he collected 5 RBIs, a career best, in an 8-3 defeat of the Milwaukee Brewers. He was named the National League's Player of the Month for August, when he hit .347 with 41 hits, 19 of them for extra bases, and scored 21 runs. He added another highlight to his resumé on September 14th when he started the first triple play in PNC Park history from third base. In the 4th inning of a game against the Chicago Cubs, he fielded a hard ground ball by Matt Szczur and stepped on the third base bag to start a 5-4-3 triple killing; for good measure, he then hit a two-run double in the 5th to lead the Bucs to a 7-3 win. He finished the season hitting .315, the second-highest average in the National League, behind batting champion and former teammate Justin Morneau at .319, and just ahead of teammate McCutchen at .314. He added 38 doubles, 7 triples and 13 homers, scored 77 runs and drove in 52, mostly from the lead-off spot, while stealing 18 bases in 25 attempts. In no little due to his contributions, the Pirates made the postseason for the second straight year as host of the National League Wild Card Game. He went 2 for 4 in that game, but the Pirates were shut out by the San Francisco Giants.

The Pirates expressed their confidence in Harrison in two clear ways at the start of the 2015 season, first by moving 3B Pedro Alvarez to 1B on a permanent basis, opening up the position for Josh, and then on April 8th by signing him to a contract extension taking him until 2018 with options for the next two years. However, he could not recapture the magic of his breakout season in the early going, as on May 12th, he was hitting only .173 after 28 games, one of the lowest batting averages among major league regulars. Worse for him, Korean rookie infielder Jung Ho Kang was finding his hitting stroke and looking for more playing time as a result, with Harrison an obvious choice to give way in light of his hitting woes.

In 2017, he returned to the All-Star Game after an excellent first half as the Pirates starter at second base. On August 23rd, he broke up a bid for immortality by Rich Hill of the Los Angeles Dodgers when he homered to lead off the 10th inning against him at PNC Park. The ball just made it past the fence for a walk-off homer, and it was the only hit by the Bucs that night, as Hill had pitched nine no-hit innings before coming back out in the 10th. It was the first time in MLB annals that a player had ended a no-hit bid with an extra-inning homer. He played 128 games for the Pirates that season, hitting .272 with 16 homers and 47 RBIs while scoring 66 runs. His season ended on September 2nd when he was hit by a pitch thrown by the Cincinnati Reds' Tyler Mahle, breaking a bone in his hand. The Pirates fell in the standings, however, and after the season traded two of their foremost players, CF Andrew McCutchen and SP Gerrit Cole, in return for prospects. Harrison was not shy about expressing his dismay regarding the team's apparent decision to forget about competing in 2018, stating that if this was the case, he would rather be traded. However, the Pirates got off to an excellent start and Harrison had already scored 12 runs in his first 14 games when on April 15th, he was hit in the wrist by a fastball from Jose Urena, once again breaking a bone. The injury occurred in spite of his wearing a protective pad on his wrist, which seemed to absorb the blunt of the blow but alas, the ball deflected on his hand, breaking his pinkie finger, the same one he had broken the previous year. The initial prognosis was that he would miss six weeks of action, but he came back earlier, making his return on May 20th. He was red hot on his return, as he collected 8 hits in his first three games back. He also played sparingly in September, resulting in a total of 97 games, his lowest since 2013. He finished at .250 with 8 homers and 37 RBIs.

Moving On[edit]

Following the 2018 season, Harrison became a free agent but had to wait a while to find a team. Spring training was already under way on February 20, 2019 when media sources reported that he had come to an agreement with the Detroit Tigers on a one-year contract, pending a successful physical examination. He was joining long-time keystone partner Jordy Mercer, who had also signed with the Tigers earlier that offseason. He played just 36 games for Detroit however, and did not produce at all, as he hit .175 with just 1 homer. With the Tigers turning to younger players as part of their slow rebuild, he was released on August 9th. He signed a contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in December, but was handed his release on July 21, 2020 as the team was finalizing its opening day roster for the delayed and abbreviated season that was about to start. On July 27th, he signed as a free agent with the Washington Nationals. He was quickly added to the playing roster and made his first appearance as the starting DH against the Toronto Blue Jays on July 30th. He revived his career in the nation's capital, batting .278 with an OPS+ of 111 in 33 games in 2020, and doing even better in 2021. That second season, he hit .294 in 90 games, with 6 homers, 39 runs and 38 RBIs, and an OPS+ of 124. He was used all over the field both seasons, making him particularly valuable on a team beset by a succession of injuries to starting players. However, in spite of his contribution, they were unable to reproduce the magic of their 2019 championship season, and when the trading deadline rolled around in 2021, the Nationals decided to re-tool by trading away a slew of veterans. Josh was one of these, going to the Oakland Athletics alongside C Yan Gomes in return for three prospects.

Notable Achievements[edit]

  • 2-time NL All-Star (2014 & 2017)


Further Reading[edit]

  • Adam Berry: "J-Hay desires trade if Bucs won't contend in '18: With Cutch, Cole gone, 2B says also dealing him could 'be better for all involved'",, January 18, 2018. [1]
  • Adam Berry and Ken Gurnick: "Oh my Josh! Unprecedented HR flips no-no to W",, August 23, 2017. [2]
  • Adam Berry: "J-Hay reports, reiterates desire to contend or leave",, February 18, 2018. [3]

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