College: Kennesaw State, GA
At a Glance:
Drafted in the 24th round of the amateur draft in 1999, it seems the Orioles finally decided it was late enough to draft a guy who had too many coincidental ties to baseball not to end up with a decent career. Born in Cairo, GA, he also played at Cairo HS and lives there in the offseason, none of which has anything to do with his new organizational teammate, but is coincidence number one. He played college ball at Kennesaw State, and what with Kenesaw Mountain Landis being MLB's first ever commissioner is coincidence number two. And with a listed height and weight of 5'9", 195, he is an exact 1-to-1 physical replacement of the outfielder the Reds traded away this offseason in Dave Sappelt. Tell me that's just a coincidence...
Debuting in 2001 with the Orioles, Harris didn't manage to get semi-regular playing time until 2004 with the White Sox. He demonstrated a useful ability to get on base and play multiple positions adequately. After two forgettable years as a spare part, he hit his prime in the 2007-2009 seasons. He was a league average hitter those years who showed he could play 2B, 3B, all three OF positions, and even a little SS.
Despite a woeful lack of power, Harris manages to make the most of the skills he does have by getting on base at a decent rate. With an OBP often 70-100+ points better than his AVG, he knows how to take a walk, and with some BABIP luck can turn that skill into league average-ish offensive performance. Once on base, he has historically been a good baserunner if not a great base stealer. He has 106 career stolen bases - not bad for a part-time guy.
What He Means to the Reds:
He's a good target for a team that wants to use him as a utility player, pinch hitter/runner, and injury depth. He's a veteran who has spent the majority of his career in a backup/utility role so he knows how to prepare for that. The Reds signed him on a minor-league deal, so he doesn't block anyone and doesn't cost a lot, and only takes a roster spot in case of injury or unexpected ineffectiveness.
If he makes the big club, he will earn the pro-rated portion of $800,000, with $50,000 incentives for 200, 300, and 350 plate appearances, so his max cost is under $1 million even if he makes the club out of Spring Training. He's on the downside of his career now at age 34, so league average in part-time play is the ceiling of his performance. Then again, no one saw Miguel Cairo coming at ages 36-37 and playing far better than ever, so...
What do the Stats Say?
What do you think Willie Harris will provide the Reds in 2012? (Moderate time >300 PA, Little time >100 PA, Minimal time <100 PA)
He'll get moderate time and play well (enough) (13 votes)
He'll get little time and play well (enough) (68 votes)
He'll get moderate time and stink (17 votes)
He'll get little time and stink (24 votes)
He'll get more time than anyone expects (19 votes)
He'll get minimal or no time at all (39 votes)
180 total votes