The 2019 season was an incredible year for numerous Braves’ prospects. From top to bottom, several players within the organization’s farm system boosted their stock and created excitement regarding their path to the major leagues.
In this offseason series, we’ll take a look at the Braves’ prospects that flourished in 2019 and are set up to have an even better 2020 season. These columns will cover youngsters that are currently ranked in the Braves’ system, using FanGraphs’ THE BOARD as our model for prospect rankings. My goal is to cover every Braves’ prospect that received an “up mark” beside their name (FanGraphs’ way of saying a player’s stock is rising), as well as any other players I feel are on the right trajectory; though, the releasing of each “rewind” is in no particular order. Enjoy.
(Note: The guys at FanGraphs are actually in the process of updating THE BOARD for the 2020 season. It appears they’re releasing their rankings in alphabetical order — the Arizona Diamondbacks’ list was posted last week — so the new Braves’ list will probably be available soon. Until that is released, I will be going by the final version of the 2019 prospect rankings. However, once the 2020 version comes out, I’ll share each player’s respective rank from BOTH sets of lists to illustrate the sort of before-and-after analysis we’re trying to achieve in this series, in terms of each player’s performance trend within the organization.)
No. 24: OF, Trey Harris
- 2019 stats:131 G, .323 AVG, 14 HR, 26 2B, 73 RBI, 8 SB
- 2019 levels: A, A+, AA
- Projected 2020 levels: AA, AAA
I start this series with Harris simply because he was my favorite player in 2019. It’s amazing what he accomplished this past season, forcefully putting himself on the map, not just within Braves Country but all over the baseball industry.
Sure, Harris played great in 2018 with the rookie club and Single-A Rome (playing in a total of 53 games and hitting .302 with 21 XBH), but no one saw this coming.
Following his 2018 season — his first year in the Braves’ organization, after being drafted in the 32nd round that June — Harris was reassigned to the Single-A team at the start of 2019. It only took Harris 56 games to earn a well-deserved promotion to High-A Florida, after he slashed .366/.437/.594, including 14 doubles and eight home runs. The start of a busy season had begun.
Once in Florida, the out-of-this-world hitting wasn’t expected to continue, being that the Florida State League is where hitters usually regress — but not Harris. The Mizzou alum spent even less time there then he did in Rome, needing only 34 games and 139 plate appearances with the Fire Frogs. The 23-year-old slashed a more normal .303/.388/.443, though the extra-base hits continued as he belted five doubles and four home runs. Next stop: Double-A Mississippi.
With the Mississippi Braves, Harris accompanied top prospects, Cristian Pache and Drew Waters, as the Braves’ Double-A team featured a loaded outfield for about three weeks — before Pache and Waters were promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett in early August. There Harris did his best to keep up with the red hot duo as his torrid stretch began to cool off (but not by much).
When the season ended, Harris played in 41 games for the Double-A team, slashing a plenty respectable .281/.318/.411, recording seven doubles and two home runs. Overall, he dominated at two levels of the minors and held his own in an ultra-talented Southern League. To bring on the cliches… a star was born.
But there’s much more that went into Harris’ 2019 season. Through it all, the outfielder was named the Braves minor league Batter of the Year — along with Pitcher of the Year, Ian Anderson. He was also selected to represent the Braves in the Arizona Fall League in October, where he was chosen to the AFL All-Star team. In 16 games out west — with the Scottsdale Scorpions — Harris hit .281 (.810 OPS) with a couple of homers and four doubles. Even the fall couldn’t stop him from raking.
For a player that didn’t garner much attention coming out of Missouri — he hit .267 with 28 home runs in four seasons in Columbia — Harris has easily surpassed any and every expectation that could’ve come from the Braves’ 952nd pick back in 2018. Once just an organization filler within the Braves minor league system, Harris is now a top-30 Braves’ prospect and will most likely be knocking on the door of the top-10 once the new rankings are released. This is a model example of a rags-to-riches type story (at least regarding his prospect stock), and now Harris’ sights will be set on the majors.
At the moment, there are currently two outfielders ahead of Harris — Pache and Waters — but with the general assumption that at least the former of that duo is quickly inching closer to his big league debut, it’s not out of the question to wonder if Harris could reach the majors sometime in 2021-22.
One thing’s for sure, the Braves’ major league outfield should look very different in the coming seasons (if not sooner). Current center fielder, Ender Inciarte, has two more seasons on his five-year, $30.525 million deal, plus a 2022 option that comes with a $9 million salary and $1.025 million buyout.
I think we can all agree that it’s highly doubtful Ender finishes up that contract as a Brave, considering all of the trade speculation surrounding him as well as his rather swift regression over the past few years. If Ender is indeed moved, that opens up room for Pache, which then allows us to immediately turn our attention towards Waters — the Braves’ NEXT outfielder of the future.
I’ll admit, visions of Atlanta’s outfield featuring Ronald Acuna Jr., Cristian Pache, and Drew Waters makes the world seem right. Although, that, unfortunately, leaves Harris on the outside looking in. This is where I’m going to announce my sort of outlandish prediction — that the Braves start moving Harris around positionally this upcoming season.
Harris is an athlete and a solid defender. Back in his college days, he played several different positions, including second and third base for Mizzou. It wasn’t until he was a pro that he played solely in the outfield (and even then, he bounced around all over the grass). With his size, Harris has always seemed like the perfect candidate to become a super-utility type of player, sort of like what Charlie Culberson has given the Braves the last few seasons, or what Johan Camargo was supposed to offer in 2019.
This is all a bunch of speculation, perhaps a far-fetched idea to give Harris more of an upper-hand at joining the major league team sooner. I haven’t seen any actual grumblings regarding such things by anyone within the Braves’ organization, but it would make sense.
Regardless of whether or not Harris continues as an outfielder, an infielder, or some do-it-all Marwin Gonzalez-type, it’s apparent the Braves have something special with him.
Now, the more realistic prediction regarding the soon-to-be 24-year-old’s — his birthday is in January — 2020 campaign is that Harris will start the year in Mississippi. I would imagine a quick 30-50 game stint of solid play in Double-A would be an ample sample-size for the Braves’ brass to feel comfortable in moving him up to Gwinnett, where he’ll again meet up with Pache and Waters, forming a super outfield for the Stripers. Exactly how aggressive the Braves wind up being with Harris may vary, but if how the organization has handled its other more heralded position-player prospects is any indication, I think there’s a strong chance Harris ends his 2020 season in Triple-A.