Closing Time: Josh Harrison, back in the game

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Josh Harrison might be rediscovering his All-Star form
Josh Harrison might be rediscovering his All-Star form

Today’s Closing Time is brought to you by the letter H. And for starters, come on down, Josh Harrison.

You remember Harrison, an ordinary utility player who stepped up for the season of his life in 2014. A .315-77-13-52-18 line made him ownable in any format. He made the All-Star team, even finished ninth in the MVP voting. At age 26, away we go.

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Harrison’s average has been steady in subsequent years, but it’s been hard to accept his declining power. His slugging percentage dropped 100 points in 2015. Perhaps he was struggling to validate the long-term extension he received prior to the year, or maybe an ankle injury was hurting more than he let on.

Harrison managed a .283 average and 19 steals last year, but that was the extent of his fantasy value. The pop was vacant — just four homers. He didn’t walk (.311 OBP) or hit the ball with much authority (.388 slugging). At least he finished the year on a strong note, hitting .326 with 19 runs and 17 RBIs over his final 34 games. A move to the leadoff spot, coincidence or not, lined up with Harrison’s finishing kick.

The Pittsburgh infielder is off to a super start in 2017, maybe ready to challenge the line he posted in 2014. He’s already hit five home runs — his best pop output in three years — and the batting average remains a robust .310. He’s swiped a couple of bases. His walk rate has risen slightly, strikeouts are down a speck. Perhaps most importantly of all, he’s pulling the ball more and generating more hard contact.

The Pirates lineup is nothing special, but Harrison has the leadoff spot locked up and isn’t going anywhere. His ownership tag has spiked in recent days, but he’s still widely available — unclaimed in two-thirds of Yahoo leagues. If you’re sick of Ryon Healy or ready to replace minors-bound Greg Bird, perhaps it’s time for a Harrison rental, see where the story goes. Harrison also carries two positions, second and third base, for the good Yahooligans.

• We could ask Matt Harvey questions for a full day or two. Answers are hard to come by. We hashtag with heavy hearts — #HarveyDay has downgraded to #HarveyDanger.

The ordinary Braves lineup crushed Harvey in the last week, getting him for 12 runs over 9.2 agonizing innings. Harvey has walked eight, struck out just three. His ERA sits at 5.14, his K/BB ratio below two (unacceptable in today’s context).

I generally call on Mike Salfino, our man on the ground in New Jersey, when I need straight talk on the Mets. Here’s what Jersey had to say on Harvey:

Salfino later said that he recommends holding Harvey for about three more starts, basically into the end of the month.

I suppose Harvey’s velocity could be spun in different directions. A 94.0 readout on a fastball sounds good, but it’s his lowest average in five years — and remember the guns are hot this year, per different recording methods. His swinging-strike rate is also the lowest it’s ever been.

Some Harvey believers and apologists still exist — here’s one pundit that calls him a Top 35 starter — so maybe a trade is possible. You might need one Harvey show of faith before market confidence recovers, but I don’t have much long-term optimism here. See if you can time the market, then bail out.

That's the reliever they gave me
That's the reliever they gave me

• We talk about it often, many pitchers completely reinvent themselves when they slide to the bullpen. Aloha, Brad Hand. He was a forgettable 4.86/1.46 man during 43 starting trials, but he’s been a 3.23/1.14 lynchpin since shifting to the bullpen.

Last year Hand blossomed in San Diego, with a 2.92 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 89.1 innings. You picked up 111 juicy strikeouts, too. A valuable pitcher, especially in capped formats where the strikeout category turns into K/9.

Hand is doing more of the same in 2017: 14 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 17 K. That’s a 0.64 ERA and 0.64 WHIP. Obviously Hand isn’t going to keep outlier ratios like that, but his 2016 haul is a good baseline to start with — and perhaps he’s going to take another step forward. He’s in his age-27 season, after all.

Hand waits for your call (or your schedule card) in 95 percent of Yahoo leagues.

• The H for Trevor Rosenthal usually stands for hold, but he was given the ninth inning Tuesday against Milwaukee. Seung-hwan Oh needed the day off, after a 25-pitch loss the previous night.

Rosenthal converted with no problems — even struck out Ryan Braun, who generally owns him. Rosenthal is one of my favorite spec plays for a possible closer change later in the year; he’s cranking up 99 mph heat, and he’s struck out 17 — against just two walks — over 8.1 innings.

• Texas manager Jeff Banister took forever to endorse Delino DeShields, but we finally made it. DeShields only started five times in the opening three weeks — and just once in leadoff — but the story flipped over the last week. DeShields has been the leadoff guy for six straight games.

The short-run results are pretty: 7-for-21, five walks, three steals, even a homer. And keep in mind DeShields was a monster in Spring Training, for whatever that means. Despite all sorts of DeShields propaganda in this space and other Yahoo properties, he’s owned in a mere eight percent of our leagues. The upside is major, take a shot.

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