By John Perrotto
The Pirates made Memorial Day feel more like Labor Day on Monday.
The Pirates called up two players from Class AAA Indianapolis prior to their 7-3 loss to the Mets at Citi Field in New York. One of those players, infielder Josh Harrison, had never played in the major leagues. The other, catcher Dusty Brown, has had only a cup of coffee in the bigs as he appeared in seven games with the Boston Red Sox in each of the last two seasons.
Normally, those are the types of moves associated with Labor Day, when the minor-league seasons end and most major-league clubs call up at least a few players with minimal experience at the highest level.
Harrison and Brown were called up to take the places of infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce (calf) and catcher Ryan Doumit (ankle), who were both placed on the 15-day disabled list after being injured over the weekend during a series against the Cubs at Chicago.
Neither to be her Harrison nor Brown has received a lot of prospect buzz during their careers. However, in Harrison’s case, he has worked his way up to the big leagues with consistently strong performances in the minor leagues. Brown, meanwhile, is more a case of being in the right place at the right because catcher Jason Jaramillo has been battling injuries at Indianapolis in recent weeks.
If either is to make an impact, it is likely to be the 23-year-old Harrison, who was hitting .313 with two home runs, 11 RBIs, eight stolen bases, a .354 on-base percentage and a .448 slugging percentage in 37 games for Indianapolis. He also went 5-for-5 last Saturday against Pawtucket.
There are certainly plenty of knocks against Harrison, chief among them his size as he stands just 5-8 and weighs 175. While he plays second base base, third and the corner outfield spots, his inability to play shortstop and center fielder are likely to limit his chances to be a super utility player in the majors. He also does not hit for enough power to be a corner player.
Yet all Harrison has done is produce, particularly since being acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a July, 2009 trade along with Jose Ascanio and Kevin Hart for Tom Gorzelanny and John Grabow. While the trade hasn’t aided either club at the major-league level, Harrison helped lead the Pirates’ high Class A Lynchburg and Class AA Altoona affiliates to league titles each of the last two seasons by hitting .270 in 34 games for the Hillcats in 2009 and .300 with four homers, 75 RBIs and 19 steals in 135 games for the Curve last season.
Harrison was the Big East Player of the Year in 2008 at Cincinnati and was the Cubs’ sixth-round draft pick that year. He also has good bloodlines as he is a cousin of former major-league outfielder and Pirates first base coach John “T-Bone” Shelby.
In all, Harrison has hit .307 with a .354 OBP and a .421 slugging percentage in 1,568 plate appearances.
“If you look at the kid, there are a lot of reasons not to think he can play in the major leagues,” said a scout who regularly covers the Pirates’ organization. “Then you watch him play and you fall in love with him. You can tell how much he loves the game and he plays above his tools. He’ll do the little things–hit behind the runner, drop down a bunt, get a big two-out hit, makes all the plays in the field. He won’t overwhelm you with talent but I would not bet against this guy.”