Stars of the AFL: Brendan Harris

There's no doubt that Brendan Harris is a Major League player, he's been there twice before. A highly rated prospect in the Chicago Cubs system, Harris made is MLB debut back in July of 2004, and he returned later that same season. Of course, he made those two appearances with two different teams, and he doesn't play for either one of them anymore.

Well, sort of.

Brendan Harris was traded from the Cubs to the Red Sox at the trade deadline in '04 as part of the Nomar Garciaparra trade. He never even got to put on a uniform in the Boston organization, as he was dealt to the Expos almost immediately in the deal that brought Orlando Cabrera. So Harris is now a National, technically not an Expo, and if that wasn't confusing enough, he's playing a new position too.

Well, sort of.

"I've really been playing second for a lot of the last two years," Harris said, "I played it some in the Cubs organization, and then I split time last year between second and third, because they have Vidro."

That's becoming another common theme in Harris' career. Being blocked.

In Chicago the young third base prospect appeared to be on the fast track for the bigs, until the Cubs dealt for Aramis Ramirez. He started working at second base and watched as both Todd Walker and Jerry Hairston were brought into the fold. He moved to the Nationals and began working at third base again, because Jose Vidro was considered a cornerstone second baseman, and the Nats go out and sign Vinny Castilla to play third.

"It's a little tough to get moved, because when you move to the Expos, you kind of figure you're going to get your shot. I'm glad I got a taste in Chicago and Montreal," Harris said when asked about moving to the Expos, eh, make that the Nationals, organization. "You're always happy to be in an organization that's going to contend, so you can't be unhappy about them doing things to win, but you want to get your shot too."

As far as the position shuffles, Harris thinks that's a lot easier to deal with than the organization shuffling.

"It's not really that tough to float back and forth between second and third. The biggest thing is the throw," while that might seem obvious, according to Harris, it's not the arm that matters, it's the feet, "you just can't get lazy with your feet. At second, you can get lazy with your feet and still make good throws that get guys, but at third you really have to be careful to get your feet set right or you can throw the ball away really easily."

Any time a prospect at Harris' developmental stage starts a new position, the words 'utility man' start getting throw around. While Harris acknowledges it, he doesn't necessarily worry about it.

"I don't really want to be a utility player, because I want to play everyday, but if you look at a guy like [Angels super sub] Chone Figgins, he's proven that you can be an everyday utility player. I've been playing a couple positions for awhile now, and if that's what gets me to the big leagues for good I'll take it."

Perhaps some of the reason that sentiment has changed is that Harris' prospects as a utility guy are getting a bump here in Arizona, where he's started getting reps at shortstop.

"I played there all through college, and I played like 12 or 15 games there when I was with the Cubs, so it's not completely foreign to me," Harris says, "but whenever you go away and come back to a spot, it takes a little while to get the timing back. That's the best thing for me, is to get the reps at all three spots, because then I really have a chance to play a lot."

That's certainly the truth. Playing primarily at third, but with stops at second and short in the AFL, what Harris is proving to everyone who watches is that he's got more than enough bat to handle any of those spot on a daily basis. He's had a hit in all six games in which he's had an at bat, and is crushing at a .542 clip. He homered in his first AFL game of the year, and has followed that with four doubles and a triple. The magic number in slugging percentage in 1000%. Brendan Harris is slugging 1000%

"It was a tough change in organizations when I first got here," Harris says of Montreal, "there was no ownership, you never really knew where you were playing, and since I was new to the organization, it was tough to try to figure out what direction the club was going.

"It was such a drastic change in the mentalities too. In Chicago, they're tired of the whole 'lovable losers' thing, and if you come up, you've gotta be ready to help them win. In Montreal, there wasn't that same pressure to produce right away, but this past year you saw ownership that was ready to spend some money to contend. It's funny, because the Nationals made this big run, and went out and traded for some guys, and this was the year the Braves won the East with a really young group of guys. So you just never know what's going to work."

If his AFL continues the way that it has gone, the Nationals will be able to count on one thing, Brendan Harris has a Major League worthy bat, and plenty of places for his glove.


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