It’s that time of the year, where we discuss the organization’s future talent. The Braves sure have been blessed these last several seasons, and in 2021 that definitely hasn’t changed. As we move on to profiling Atlanta’s Top 30 prospect rankings, be sure to check out the site’s list and my post on potential under-the-radar guys.
With no particular order to go by, we’ll start with perhaps one of the biggest risers in the system, ninth-ranked prospect outfielder Michael Harris…
#9. Michael Harris, OF
- 6’0″, 195 lbs.
- 3rd RD / 2019 MLB Draft
He hasn’t been talked about as much as he should, but Harris has officially snuck into the Braves top 10, ranking 9th in our rankings and 5th in Talking Chops. And this really didn’t come out of nowhere either, considering the guys at FanGraphs had Harris at no. 13 in their mid-season rankings last year. The problem is that he just hasn’t played enough pro ball yet and is still a teenager, which means there’s a TON of risk still in his profile. The 2021 season will be a huge one for Harris as we’ll finally see if he can handle full-season baseball when given more ABs.
After being taken in the 3rd round of the 2019 draft, straight out of Stockbridge High School in Georgia, Atlanta tasked the 18-year-old Harris with the Gulf Coast League. The switch-hitting Harris raked from Day 1, going 5 for his first 12 (.417 AVG) and finishing his first 20 professional games with a .382/.440/.529 slash-line, 6 XBH, and 4 stolen bases. Harris was so hot in the GCL that he only lasted 11 more games in the lowest rookie league, finishing his stint there with a .349 AVG and 169 wRC+. By the second week of August, Harris was promoted to Single-A Rome.
In Rome, he understandably hit a wall, going 4 for 35 (.114 AVG) during his first 10 games, featuring just one XBH. However, he started to come around in the final 12 games of the 2019 season, turning in a .234 AVG in that span, including a couple of doubles. All told, even with a rather dreadful stay in Rome, Harris concluded his first pro campaign with a very respectable .277/.344/.393 slash-line overall between the GCL and Single-A, while slugging 2 homers, 27 RBI, and stealing 8 bases — an offensive profile that came out to be just above average, shown by his 107 wRC+. Not only did Harris post strong numbers for a teenager, but he also showed reason to believe that he’ll continue to improve at the plate. Even with a surge in his strikeout-rate while in Rome, Harris ended the ’19 season with strong plate-discipline, averaging an 8.6% walk rate and 20.2% strikeout rate (both exceptional for an 18-year-old). It’s a shame Harris wasn’t given a chance to build off his first season in the system, but we at least have enough data to feel confident he’s the real deal.
Even with an ultra-high ranking (especially for someone only 50ish games into his pro career), there’s still a ton of question marks surrounding Harris and his game. Many of us that are high on him will admit that a lot of excitement came from the fact that the Braves invited Harris to the team’s alternate site in 2020, and even more the fact that he not only held his own but also impressed while there. That’s generally unheard of for a prospect so early in his development, so there’s obviously something extremely special about this kid.
So, for now, the trend arrow is pointed up for Harris, although there’s still a lot of wait-and-see too. Given he only has 22 games in full-season ball thus far, Harris will most likely begin the 2021 season in Rome, where his production will dictate how quickly he’s promoted again. Fortunately for Atlanta, the organization is blessed with a strong list of prospect outfielders in Cristian Pache, Drew Waters, and Terone Harris — all three of which have reached at least Double-A Mississippi (plus a Greyson Jenista, who’s looking for a huge bounce-back this year). Harris most certainly doesn’t need to be rushed, so even if he rakes in Rome to start the year, there’s really no reason to push him further than Mississippi anytime soon. Regardless, it’s great to see another talented hitter making waves in the system. At this rate, the Braves should be able to stock a lot of their major-league outfield with homegrown players for many seasons to come.