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Bearcats in the Big Leagues: Year in Review

There was no playoff baseball for the BITBL crew, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t anything to talk about.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Harrison

In all, it was another solid year for Harrison. The jack-of-all-trades for the Pittsburgh Pirates dipped in production every so slightly (.283/.311/.388 in 2016 versus .287/.327/.390 in 2015), which marked the second-straight season he has fallen in each of the slash line categories. However, I’d imagine if you asked most GMs if they’d take a utility player with speed and solid defense who can hit .280, they’d take it.

However, a deeper dive might point those GMs in another direction. Depending on what metric you put the most weight, Harrison actually had a bad year. He only had a wRC+ of 87 (100 is league average) but if you are more of a wins above replacement guy, he actually was worth more in 2016 (1.5 WAR) than 2015 (1.3) and ranked seventh for the Pirates in the statistic.

That incremental step forward was helped by fewer strikeouts, as Harrison had a strikeout rate of 14.6 percent, down 1.2 points from 2015 and in line with his breakout 2014 season when he was worth five wins. He also set career-highs in stolen bases (19) and runs batted in (59).

However, Harrison’s season came to a rough end and not just because the Pirates missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012. In mid-September he endured a right groin strain and was shut down for the year.

Heading into 2017, the 29-year-old has two years left on a $27.3 million deal with the Pirates and should be a part of that team’s core for the duration of that time and perhaps beyond.

Ian Happ

Last year’s first round pick for the Chicago Cubs, Happ has had a productive first two years in professional baseball. He played well in Single-A full and short season in 2015, slashing .259/.356/.466 with nine home runs and 33 RBI, which wasn’t enough to earn him a spot on the 40-man roster for 2016, but did push him to Single-A advanced. He crushed the ball with the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, smashing seven home runs and 42 RBI while putting up an .885 OPS.

Then, in late June, Happ was promoted to Double-A and began playing with the Tennessee Smokies. He played in 65 games with the Smokies and did a decent job (.262/.318/.415) but he struck out much more (60) than he walked (20) and still has some work to do before he’s helping the Cubs chase multiple World Series titles.

Next year, Happ could snag a spring training invite and, based on his current trajectory, begin playing at Triple-A at least for a portion of next summer.

Tony Campana

Pinballing between the Chicago White Sox and the Washington Nationals the last two years, Campana signed a minor league deal with the Nats in February and began the season with their Triple-A affiliate, the Syracuse Chiefs. He was placed on the seven-day disabled list in late April and was later released on June 27 after slashing .225/.301/.242 in 43 games. The White Sox stepped in three days later and signed the 30-year-old to a minor league contract. He played 29 games for the Charlotte Knights (Triple-A) and was even worse (.205/.241/.217), while also spending some time on the DL.

Campana has played in parts of four MLB seasons and has 66 career stole bases but its looking less and less likely that he will ever make it back to the MLB level, let alone be an everyday player.

Connor Walsh

Walsh is a burgeoning reliever in the White Sox’s system who overcame an injury to put together a decent year across Single-A and Double-A ball. He started the season with the Winston-Salem Dash where he posted a 3.40 ERA and recorded 41 strikeouts in 39 23 innings. He hit a roadblock in late June when he was placed on the seven-day DL. After a perfect rookie league rehab outing with the Arizona League White Sox, Walsh returned to the Dash and was later called up to play for the Birmingham Barons. His performance with the Barons was less stellar, as he had a 4.70 ERA in 7 23 innings across six games.

Walsh may not have the prospect pedigree of Happ but he should enter 2016 as a piece of the Barons’ bullpen with his sights set on moving up the ladder.

Ryan Atkinson

It wasn’t until July 2 that Atkinson was signed to an MLB team, as he inked a deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He pitched in nine games, making six starts across two rookie ball assignments. In that time he went 1-4 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 39 strikeouts compared to 13 walks. He obviously allowed to many batters to reach base, but his strikeout total makes him an interesting piece in the low minors for Arizona.