With Spring Training less than a month away, it's time for an in-depth look at the Pirates' 2017 roster. This is the third of an eight-part series checking in on their current and future options at each position. Next up: second base.PITTSBURGH -- Big question: Will J-Hay's bat bounce back?For
With Spring Training less than a month away, it's time for an in-depth look at the Pirates' 2017 roster. This is the third of an eight-part series checking in on their current and future options at each position. Next up: second base.
PITTSBURGH -- Big question: Will J-Hay's bat bounce back?
For the second straight year, second base belongs to Josh Harrison. He gave the Pirates what they wanted on defense last season, leading all qualified National League second basemen with eight Defensive Runs Saved. But what can Pittsburgh expect out of him offensively?
Around the Horn:Catcher | First base
Behind Harrison, super-utility man Adam Frazier hit well as a rookie last year, but he occasionally faltered in the field. How might the Bucs balance his steady bat with Harrison's sure glove?
The starter: Josh Harrison
Harrison's offensive numbers have sharply fallen off in the two seasons since his All-Star 2014 campaign, but he still provides value. He was a league-average hitter in 2015, with a wRC+ of exactly 100. He was the Pirates' second-best defender last season, according to DRS, behind only Starling Marte.
While Harrison thrived defensively last year, his OPS fell again to .699. His strong start and solid finish were tarnished by a brutal stretch in which he hit .194/.221/.309 from June 10-Aug. 10. Harrison makes a lot of contact, hits for a high average and could steal 20 bases in a full, healthy season. But his power has dropped significantly the past two years, with his slugging percentage falling from .490 (2014) to .390 ('15) and .388 ('16).
Harrison's season ended prematurely in September, when he was getting hot again, due to a groin strain. He will earn $7.75 million this year and remains under contract in 2018 with club options covering '19 and '20. The Pirates reportedly tried to trade him and re-sign Sean Rodriguez to play second earlier this offseason.
Backing up: Frazier, Alen Hanson
Frazier was a pleasant surprise for the Pirates last season, batting .301 with a .767 OPS to earn a permanent spot on the bench. His simple approach and short left-handed swing played well from the start. He struggled defensively, however, as he moved around the infield and outfield. Look for Frazier to take over Rodriguez's super-utility role, playing often but not every day.
It's sink-or-swim time for Hanson, who's out of Minor League options. The switch-hitting speedster played sparingly in his Major League debut last season. Hanson's stock has fallen over the past few years, dragged down by inconsistent play, but the 24-year-old still shows glimpses of his high upside. He is Pittsburgh's No. 13 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.
Depth:Max Moroff, Chris Bostick, Erich Weiss
Weiss, a 25-year-old lefty hitter, put up solid numbers for Double-A Altoona last year and spent the entire season at second base. Moroff and Bostick are utility infielders on the 40-man roster, making them more realistic callup candidates.
Moroff, 23, made two plate appearances in an abbreviated big league debut last year. The switch-hitter's eye is his strongest attribute, as he posted a .374 OBP in Double-A in 2015 and a .367 mark in Triple-A last season. He also offers flexibility around the infield, working at second, third and shortstop, but he doesn't have much power.
Bostick, acquired from the Nationals late last season, offers similar versatility. The 23-year-old played second, third and left field last year, but he hit just .203 with a .559 OPS in 64 Triple-A games. He likely will begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Next up: Kevin Kramer
The position presumably belongs to Harrison as long as he's around, while Frazier, Hanson and Moroff could prove worthy of more playing time in the coming years. But Kramer, 23, is a prospect to watch as he works his way through the system.
The Pirates' second-round Draft pick in 2015, Kramer hit .277/.352/.378 for Class A Advanced Bradenton last year and spent the whole season at second base. The left-handed hitter is the Bucs' No. 17 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com.
Another possibility to consider: With highly regarded shortstop prospects Kevin Newman and Cole Tucker both progressing through the system, could the Pirates eventually move one to second base?
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.