if Michael Harris II He may have been recruited by everyone else except his hometown team, and he may have been preparing to take the hill every fifth day. But the Braves have made it a bit of a habit to go against the tide in the survey industry, and recruiters are generally seen as pitchers and given the chance to beat the professional level.
This worked out well with 2021 Silver Slugger winner and MVP nominee Austin Riley, who finished 41st overall in the 2017 draft and is clearly developing as a right-wing hitter. In the third round of 2019, the Braves acquired Harris, a player from their backyard in Georgia, who most teams would love to be the left-handed bowler. But the Braves knew that Harris wanted to hit, and they wanted to let him. With his connection to Atlanta on Saturday, they will see how far he has done in the major tournaments.
As brave as Harris were, they would be the first to admit that he evolved much faster than anyone expected. And he showed a more advanced sense of the game than many expected, especially for a high school player who had previously divided his focus between throwing and hitting. He wasted no time in showing that he might have had a better player than they realized after signing him just below the holeshot when he played his way to the full season ball on his summer debut in ’19. He had a .917 OPS that year, noting that he might have a chance to be something special.
We may not know for a long time the impact of the canceled 2020 Minor League season on the development of young players. What we do know is that Harris used that time to get better. At 19, he was one of the youngest players in any alternative training position and certainly seemed to belong to a handful of other young Braves players at the time, a group that included Ronald Acuna Jr., Christian Patch and Drew Waters. All of them had the tools to play midfield, and Harris immediately showed that his instincts as a defender were as good, if not better, than the others in this group. This is something Braves fans can count on once out of the gate: as well as defending on the field. He’s certainly capable of playing all three positions, but with all due respect to Adam Duvall, Harris would be a huge defensive upgrade midfield. His extra arm that made him such an interesting prospect in high school does extremely well from anywhere.
Harris also has extra speed, which not only allows him to cover a lot of ground on the field but has also helped him to be a very effective primary stealer. So even if the 21-year-old doesn’t get off the sleigh directly, he can contribute to winning matches with his legs, arm and glove.
This does not mean that Harris will not hit. He is a very confident hitter with an advanced approach from the left side of the board. Despite usually being one of the youngest players at any level he was assigned to, he demonstrated the ability to take the same consistent hits no matter who was on the hill. This kind of mentality will help him make a double leap in the big leagues.
As far as Harris was right after being drafted, there was some concern about his chase rate. Rather than being an arrogant young player who feels like he’s figured it all out, Harris has improved his overall approach and reduced his chase rate dramatically since that first professional summer. Now he has elite skills from bat to ball that jump off the page, with a very strong knowledge of the hit area.
Force is often the last instrument to come up consistently, and Harris is sure to scratch the surface of eavesdropping on mega pop. That can take a while to show up in the big leagues, especially since he’s often content to let the ball travel deep and trust his hands to make a solid connection. Once he knows what his hot zone is and starts pushing those pitches out, the power will continue to show, giving him a very interesting combination of strength and communication skills.
It was clear that the Braves needed some outside help at the big league level, and they obviously chose to bring in Harris from Double-A rather than give Waters, currently in Triple-A and already in their 40-man roster, it’s a chance. The Braves clearly believe that Harris’ mature approach to painting and the potential of the Five Tools makes him show-ready.
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