Readers who have followed me to FanGraphs from my previous site would be aware of my affinity for Colorado Rockies third base prospect Nolan Arenado. In four-plus years, he may be the best corner infield prospect I’ve seen in person. Cue Twins Travis Harrison and his uncanny resemblance to Arenado in a number of areas. To be clear, Travis Harrison is more a mini-version instead of equivalent talent. However, this is certainly not a slight as it firmly establishes the Twins prospect as at least a future regular at the big league level. And while Miguel Sano is considered by many prospect followers as the third baseman of the future in Minnesota, contacts tell me a move to right field is in the cards for the young Dominican leaving Harrison an intriguing option.
Video after the jump
Listed at 6-foot 1, 215 pounds, Harrison profiles as an average athlete with surprising speed which is more than could be said about Arenado in the South Atlantic League. I’d describe him as a little “boxy” in his defensive movements noting a bit of stiffness fielding ground balls, as well as choppy footwork. Harrison did show off soft hands and a fringe average throwing arm indicating the potential for him sticking at third with continued repetition and physical development. Arenado had the same question marks on defense, but matured physically and leaned out his frame after graduating the SAL to the point where I barely recognized him on television the following season. For Harrison, an emphasis on agility and flexibility would likely pay large dividends and improve his profile.
In batting practice, Harrison’s ability to consistently square up the baseball was impressive. For a prospect reported to be a power hitter, his had more of a flat plane swing than I was expecting leading to tattooed line drives, but few balls that left the park. His above average to plus bat speed, as well as Harrison’s simple set up in the box was also great to see. Harrison understood how to stay inside the baseball better than any of his teammates except for maybe Byron Buxton, the second overall pick in the 2012 draft.
In game action, Harrison hit a couple of balls on the screws mixed with a flailing strikeout and routine ground ball to the left side. I was able to pull a 4.15ish home-to-first time from video on the ground out which was shocking. For a player who was considered a good enough athlete to play first base (sarcasm) entering the 2011 draft, 60/65 speed from the right side was completely unexpected. Once again, I found myself impressed with the simplicity of Harrison’s approach and swing, but did notice some difficult handling pitches at the letters or higher.
When comparing stance and swing to Arenado, it’s easy to point to the obvious differences like hand position or bat waggle. In fact, they don’t have many similarities visually other than an advanced ability to hit down and through the baseball better than most young prospects. While other prospects swing with their shoulders or fly open early, both Arenado and Harrison are “hands inside the ball and eyes on contact”. It may not result in huge raw power projections for either player, but a contact tool which projects with the ability for consistent, hard contact will yield its share of home runs as well.
In terms of low level prospects, few organizations are able to boast the strength of the Minnesota Twins. The Elizabethton roster included up to eight of the organizations top-12 prospects making Cedar Rapids a destination for prospecting next season. Harrison figures to rank somewhere in the bottom third of that list, but is primed to push higher much like Arenado did for the Rockies.