Starter: Josh Harrison
Backup: Sean Rodriguez
Josh Harrison made his name as a super-utility player, but if he had a natural position, it would be second base. J-Hay’s range and athleticism is perfect for the Pirates and their shift-heavy scheme. Also factor in that the Bucs are breaking in yet another first-time first baseman to the left of him, and moving Harrison to second, as opposed to paying over 10 million per year for Neil Walker, makes sense.
Offensively, Harrison’s importance may be even greater due to the loss of the Pittsburgh Kid. Despite suffering injuries for spurts in 2015, Harrison finished with a .287 average after a sluggish start in April and May.
It’s unknown if Harrison will ever regain his form from 2014, in which he hit .315 and contributed a 5.3 WAR, but it’s fair to suggest he may be able to rebound to a .300 batting average.
Other options for the Pirates at this position aren’t as clear because opening day rosters haven’t been released. Sean Rodriguez is currently listed as the backup on the team website and it’s possible Allen Hanson could see some time there as well.
When he’s not knocking out water coolers, the every-man utility player is truly one of the gems on Pittsburgh’s roster. He’s certainly never going to hit the cover off the ball, but his ability to play any position on the field (besides catcher and pitcher) is irreplaceable.
Despite the horrendous slumps at the plate at times last season, Sean-Rod hit a respectable .246. Rodriguez is frustrating to watch at the plate because he rarely walks or works the count. He struck out in over a quarter of his at-bats last year and walks just 2% of the time. This all adds up to a horrendous on-base percentage. However, fans should really focus on the positives with Rodriguez—he gives Hurdle the opportunity to rest players whenever he sees fit and .246 isn’t bad for a guy hitting at the bottom of the lineup.