St. Louis Cardinals: Comparing Our Infield vs. the Pittsburgh Pirates Infield
Second Base: Josh Harrison or Kolten Wong?
The Pirates bring back Josh Harrison to man second base in 2017. After a couples years as a utility player, Harrison has quietly been a consistent second baseman over the last three years. He occasionally sees some time in the infield and outfield, but his majority of games come at the keystone.
Offensively, Harrison has been rather productive at the plate. Since becoming a starter in 2013, Harrison has batted .296 with twenty-one HR and 121 RBI. Outside of those numbers, Harrison also has the ability to hit for extra bases and cause havoc on the base paths. It will be interesting to see where manager Clint Hurdle will position Harrison in the lineup.
Harrison is a prototype number two guy with high contact and extra base ability, but the Pirates do not have much else after Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, and Andrew McCutchen in the lineup. It’s possible to see Harrison hit as far as fifth in the order to field an adequate lineup.
Although he is not a major liability defensively, it is the area that could stand the most fine tuning. Last year, Harrison had a dWAR of 1.1. While not the greatest, it is still manageable for the Pirates and is better than what Kolten Wong produced last year. If Harrison can stay healthy and continue to work on his defense, he approaches the discussion for best second baseman in the Central Division.
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While Kolten Wong is more known as a defender, he sure struggled last year to live up to that reputation. His dWAR was a mere .6 in 2016. Now that doesn’t speak to his overall ability, but if the Cardinals are going to rely on him for the years to come that numbers needs to improve dramatically.
He certainly has the speed and ability to be among the best defenders at the keystone. He needs to regroup and make the fundamental plays look easy and flash the leather when it needs to be done. I expect him to rebound and put up numbers closer, if not better than Harrison defensively.
However, it is offensively where Wong has struggled the most since his rookie season. Wong has not been able to put together solid years at the plate and has become a little frustrating to watch. Cardinals fans were treated to welcoming power from the Hawaiian Hammer, as I like to call him, in 2015, but a player like Wong shouldn’t thrive off power.
His game is speed and contact. While the occasional power is good, the Cardinals are expecting someone who can get on base and create opportunity with his legs, much like Harrison. Now do I expect Wong to rebound? Absolutely. He is a good player and still young, but the Cardinals might have a short leash on him.
If Wong can return to form and stay consistent throughout the year, he is definitely the better player. However, right now that player is Harrison.