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Josh Harrison, Alex Presley Talk Hitting With David Laurila

David Laurila from FanGraphs did this interview with Josh Harrison and Alex Presley on Saturday, right before Harrison's promotion. He offered it to Bucs Dugout. Thanks, David! - Charlie

UPDATE 3:49 PM by Charlie: Harrison will get his first major-league start tonight, and he'll be batting second.

Josh Harrison and Alex Presley can flat-out hit. Questions remain as to whether they’ll ever become mainstays in the Pirates lineup, but the young mighty mites have little left to prove with the bat at the minor-league level. Each has excelled at Class AAA Indianapolis this season, as the 5-foot-8 Harrison is hitting .321/.361/.455 and the 5-foot-9 Presley an even-better .333/.377/.500.

The 25-year-old Presley, a left-handed-hitting outfielder, made his big-league debut last September, logging 23 at-bats. Harrison, a 23-year-old right-handed-hitting infielder, will make his big-league debut in the coming days, as he was called up by the Pirates yesterday.

Harrison and Presley talked about what they do best -- hit a baseball -- prior to Saturday’s game in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.


Alex, give me a scouting report on Josh.

Alex Presley: He’s a good contact hitter, a gap-to-gap hitter. You know that you’re going to get a good at bat out of him. He’s good situationally. He’s tough to strike out, that’s for sure. He’s kind of a pesky player at the plate, but he shows a little pop every now and then. He’s pretty well-rounded, I would say.

He’s a little guy with a little pop?

Presley: We’re both little guys, but we have more pop than people think we do when they first look at us.

Josh, how would you describe Alex?

Josh Harrison: He’s definitely going to be one of your toughest match-ups as a pitcher. He’s a smart hitter. He knows what he wants to do; he knows counts and what pitch he’s looking for in certain counts. He’s a guy who is going to hit the ball to all parts of the field. Whether it’s a fastball - speedy - he knows what he’s looking for. He doesn’t really miss his pitch all that often.

What constitutes a quality at-bat?

Presley: It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hit, or getting on base. It could be making the pitcher work, throwing a lot of pitches, or it could be moving a runner. It’s being a tough out and not giving away the at-bat.

Josh, are you ever too aggressive at the plate?

Harrison: That can go for anybody. There are times when every hitter, regardless of whether they’re a passive or an aggressive hitter, will be too aggressive. But that’s anybody. More times than not, if you’re aggressive and get a good pitch to hit, you’re going to do with it what you want.

Does being a smaller guy mean that pitchers come after you more aggressively than they would if you were a bigger power threat?

Presley: I don’t think so. Once you prove that you can hit, it doesn’t really matter if you’re a home-run hitter or not. They’re going to be a little more careful, knowing that if they put it in the zone you’re going to put a barrel on it. I wouldn’t say that you get more to hit being our size.

Are either of you big on scouting reports, or is your approach more, "See the ball, hit the ball?"

Harrison: I think they go hand in hand. You get a report to know what a guy throws, what pitches he has, but at the same time you have to check out the flow of the game. In certain situations, there are certain things to look for, depending on what the guy’s out pitch is, whether you’re leading off or batting second, or what‘s happening in the game.

Presley: As far as looking for pitches, you have a pretty good idea of what’s coming. For the most part, you know what the guy has, what his tendencies are, but you also want to see all of his pitches at some point in your at-bats. You kind of react from there.

Is there a specific 'Pirates hitting philosophy' that you’re taught?

Harrison: I would say that, for the most part, they want us to get a good pitch in the zone. I mean, that’s so clichéd, but ...

Presley: There’s no grand scheme, I wouldn’t say. Different styles of hitters have different plans and approaches at the plate. I think that Josh and I have pretty similar approaches, as far as what we’re looking for and what we’re trying to do with the ball.

How similar are the two of you mechanically?

Presley: I’d say that we differ, but we’re also similar.

Harrison: We’re pretty similar, but I’d say that he and I are hitters who don’t really think mechanically. We get our early work done and whatever happens in the game happens. We go in there, that day, with the swings we have.

Presley: Yeah, we try to keep it simple. It’s whatever puts us in a position to hit and get the barrel to the ball. That’s pretty much it.

It has been said that all good hitters get jammed. What does that mean to you?

Presley: If you’re getting jammed, it usually means you’re seeing the ball for a longer period of time, which is a good thing. Personally, I’d rather get jammed than hit it off the end, because I feel that I have a better chance of getting a hit if I get jammed.

Harrison: Depending on what a guy is throwing. If you have a guy who isn’t throwing really hard, you know you have more time and you can let it travel more. With the approach that Alex and I have, the type of hitters we are - we like to stay up the middle and go the other way a little bit - you obviously have to see the ball a little longer. It kind of plays into our approach.

It has also been said that you can’t cover the entire plate and thus have to focus on one side or the other. Do you agree with that?

Presley: Yeah, you have to have a general idea of where you’re looking for a pitch and what you’re trying to do with it. With two strikes, that changes, but before then you need to have an idea of what part of the zone you want to cover. Once you get to two strikes it just becomes a battle where you do what you can with what you get.

Harrison: He makes a good point. With less than two strikes, you’re looking zone. You don’t want to try to cover too much of the plate, because it’s kind of hard to be looking outside and inside at the same time and still expect to hit the ball hard. With two strikes, you have to do that to try to protect the plate. Before two strikes, you want to look for the ball in the spot that you want it.

What is the hardest pitch to hit in baseball?

Presley: I would say a good changeup. That would probably be the toughest one for me.

Harrison: A good changeup is tough, because it can come out looking like a fastball. I’d say that it’s either that, or maybe a cutter going away from you. Not so much one coming into you, but a cutter going away from you. It can look like a four-seam, and then at the last minute it has that little bit of run, away, that will make you hit it right at the second baseman instead of driving it up the middle.

How do you go about recognizing a pitch out of the pitcher’s hand?

Presley: I don’t think it’s a conscious thing. It just happens. Your body will react to what you see, but it’s not necessarily a thought process. You’ve just been conditioned so long to react to certain things.

Harrison: You just see it, and if it’s in your zone, you go after it. It kind of comes naturally.