It’s hard to call the reigning NL Rookie of the Year underrated, but it feels like that’s exactly the case with Braves centerfielder Michael Harris II.
As a 21-year-old, Harris took the league by storm after he was called up straight from AA last year at the end of May. He went on to hit just a hair under .300 with 19 homers and 20 stolen bases with an .853 OPS in 114 games, all while playing Gold Glove caliber defense in centerfield. That was enough to give him the slight nod over his teammate, Spencer Strider, for the NL Rookie of the Year award.
2022 may not have been as outstanding as Harris’ rookie campaign, but a lot of that can be attributed to multiple injuries that led to a sluggish start. On June 11th, he was hitting just .190 with a .562 OPS, but that’s when things began to change for the 2019 third-round pick out of Stockbridge, Georgia.
From June 12th to the end of the regular season, Harris hit a remarkable .333 with 15 homers, good for a .906 OPS. He also was named a Gold Glove finalist for the National League.
Harris is the definition of a five-tool player. He’s elite in all areas defensively, can hit for both average and power, and has stolen 40 bases in less than two full seasons while only being caught stealing six times. He is a budding superstar, yet it still feels as if he isn’t mentioned alongside the other elite players in the game who are his age.
That needs to change. Of all players selected in the 2019 draft, Harris is second in WAR, behind only #1 overall pick Adley Rutschman.
The 2019 draft class is one of the most talented ever.
Six position players already have reached 5 bWAR:
9.6 Adley Rutschman
8.7 Michael Harris II
7.2 Gunnar Henderson
6.6 Corbin Carroll
5.5 Bryson Stott
5.2 Bobby Witt Jr.
Next up: Abrams, R Greene, Volpe, Josh Jung
— Matt Eddy (@MattEddyBA) October 27, 2023
As the tweet mentions, the 2019 draft class is one of the most talented we’ve ever seen, and as of now, only one player has accrued more WAR than Michael Harris II, who has yet to turn 23 years old. He’s a Hall-of-Fame caliber talent, and while his postseason results to this point in his career have left a lot to be desired, his best moments are ahead of him. It shouldn’t take much longer before he’s mentioned alongside the top center fielders in the game.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire