Our offseason player review series continues today with Josh Harrison, who quickly made a positive impact after his early season acquisition.
PLAYER REVIEW: JOSH HARRISON
Age on opening day 2021: 33
How acquired: Signed as free agent, July 2020
MLB service time: 8 years, 168 days
2020 salary: $1 million (prorated $348,253)
Contract status: Signed for $1 million in 2021, free agent in 2022
2020 stats: 33 G, 91 PA, 79 AB, 11 R, 22 H, 2 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 1 SB, 2 CS, 6 BB, 12 SO, .278 AVG, .352 OBP, .418 SLG, .769 OPS, 105 OPS+, 2 DRS (in INF), 0 DRS (in OF), 0.2 fWAR, 0.3 bWAR
Quotable: “This was the best opportunity, because they said we want you right away. And it’s always been a place ... it’s been one of my favorite places to play. They’ve got a team that won it all last year. Yes, they might have lost some pieces, but they’re a team that knows how to win and are in a position to win.” - Harrison on July 27 after signing with the Nats
2020 analysis: The Nationals had been interested in Harrison before, but it wasn’t until this season opened that he became both available and a good fit for the organization. Released by the Phillies after he didn’t make the opening day roster, Harrison signed with the Nats three days later, brought in to help offset the temporary losses of Juan Soto (tested positive for COVID-19) and Carter Kieboom (sore groin).
He was a little slow to get going, but once he did, Harrison proved worthy of semi-regular playing time. He saw action at second base, third base, left and right fields, and even appeared at first base for the first time in his career. He doesn’t necessarily excel at any one position, but neither is he a liability anywhere in the field.
At the plate, Harrison proved to be pretty much what he’s always been. He hits for a decent average, makes contact, has a little bit of pop, can get on base at a decent rate and has a tendency to come through in the clutch. His splits were nearly identical, aside from hitting for a little more power against lefties. He did prove better when he was actually in the lineup and playing the field than pinch-hitting (0-for-5) or serving as designated hitter (1-for-11). Harrison hit .320 with runners in scoring position, .429 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
2021 outlook: Manager Davey Martinez made no secret he wanted to bring Harrison back for another season, and sure enough the Nats’ first consequential move of the winter was to re-sign him for $1 million plus incentives. The question now is what role he’ll play in 2021.
If everything goes according to plan, there shouldn’t be an everyday job for Harrison. But there should still be plenty of playing opportunities, given his versatility. If there’s one position he could conceivably end up playing more regularly, it would probably be at third base if Kieboom doesn’t seize the job and the Nats don’t acquire anyone else.
Whatever his precise role, Harrison should be a valuable member of the Nationals bench next season. And the fact the organization jumped so quick to re-sign him perhaps suggests there is less chance of fellow utility-type players like Howie Kendrick, Asdrúbal Cabrera and Brock Holt coming back for another year.