Harrison in Control at Peoria

When Josh Harrison steps to the plate, he knows he's in control. The 21-year-old Chicago Cubs prospect, drafted in the sixth round from the University of Cincinnati a year ago, entered the week batting .381 with nine doubles, four triples and 13 multi-hit games for Class-A Peoria of the Midwest League.

Harrison has been nothing if not a hitting machine through the Chiefs' first 29 games. He has started in all 29 games, playing second base, the outfield, DH, and even third base.

But where Harrison has truly made his mark is with the bat. He had hit safely in 15 consecutive games until recently, and his .381 average ranks second best in the Cubs' system.

Harrison picked up two hits in the Chiefs' 5-2 win at Fort Wayne on Sunday for his third straight multi-hit game. Since his hitting streak ended, he's gone 6-for-15.

"I've just been seeing the ball really well and putting a good swing on it," Harrison said. "It's just what I've always done. I try to get a good pitch to hit and put it in play because I'm a contact hitter.

"That's all you can control. You can't control whether you hit it up the middle, or in the gap. You just hit the ball where it's pitched and make solid contact."

Harrison said his approach at the plate is to relax and let the pitch come to him.

"I know that when I'm up there, I'm in control. I just try to stay calm," he said.

It is an approach that has served the Chiefs well. Harrison has been a permanent fixture atop the lineup, alternating between the leadoff spot and the No. 2 hole. He's driven in 14 runs, scored 14 runs, and has a .403 on-base percentage.

Strikeouts haven't been too big a problem, either, as he has fanned just 12 times in 113 at-bats. Harrison said that's partly the result of batting atop the lineup.

"With me being up at the top of the lineup and where I'm at, I get two strikes a lot," he said. "Being up in the lineup and leading off the game, they're going to pound the zone so there aren't many times when I'm seeing four-pitch walks or getting into a 2-0 count or something like that.

"I've had a couple of games where a couple of pitches I thought weren't strikes, but that's baseball. And a couple of at-bats, I chased a couple of pitches."

Harrison is no stranger to Midwest League pitching. He made his professional debut at Class Low-A Boise in the short-season Northwest League a season ago and batted .351 (40-for-114) with 11 doubles and 25 RBI in 33 games. That earned him a promotion to Peoria, where he batted .262 in 31 games.

Harrison acknowledged that he had a more difficult go of things following the call-up last season, but that he didn't feel differently than when he was performing well at Boise.

"I was just at a point last year where I was going through a rough stretch of playing every day," he said. "I felt that a lot of guys that I faced were guys I'd faced in college. It wasn't like when I got to Peoria guys were throwing [overly harder]. I felt the pitching was the same; I was just going through stretches that all hitters go through where we get ourselves out. Right now, I'm feeling pretty good."

Harrison's versatility could make him a viable candidate for a call-up at some point this season, especially if he continues to swing the bat well.

He has spent the majority of games between DH and left field with Peoria, but has played second base periodically. Harrison said playing so many different positions is a fun challenge.

"It's always fun to be able to bounce around because it gives you something new," he said. "It's like a challenge and baseball is full of challenges. It's just a way I can be out there to help my team any way possible.

"I've always played the infield and that's where I've played the most. Once I hit college, you play more than one position so it's not like you need to focus on just one. I've been working around the infield and the outfield because you never know."

Harrison said that the thought of being promoted doesn't factor into his thoughts.

"Everybody wants to move up, but there are a lot of (factors)," he said. "We're supposed to go out and play and do what we're supposed to, and it'll happen when the time is right. I just come out every day and take care of my business and try to help my team as much as possible."

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