Matt Olson recently went on Barstool Sports’ Starting 9 Podcast and had a ton of useful insight into the Braves organization. Most notably, he talked about how Alex Anthopoulos is able to get all of these guys to sign long-term deals that some would consider under market value, noting how top-notch the Braves organization is through and through. It also helps that the team is set up to be a World Series contender for the next decade.
Another fun snippet from the conversation surrounded the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, Michael Harris II, who Olson raved about, calling him “the best young guy I’ve played with, position player wise.”
“The best young guy I’ve played with, position player wise”
— Starting 9 (@Starting9) January 12, 2023
I feel like what Michael Harris II did last year isn’t talked about enough on a national stage. He recorded 5.3 WAR over just 114 games; that’s a 7+ WAR pace over a full season!
As Olson notes, there isn’t anything the 21-year-old can’t do. He hits for average, power, plays elite defense, and steals bases. I kept waiting for him to hit some sort of rookie wall last season, and there was a point where he began to slump, but he turned it on to end the year, finishing off an incredible rookie campaign.
I love Ronald Acuña Jr. and believe he’s the most talented Braves player I’ve seen with my own eyes. If he bounced back from his knee injury and turns in an MVP-caliber campaign, nobody would be surprised, but he’s not the only MVP candidate on this team. Austin Riley might have something to say about it, and Michael Harris will be in the conversation if he picks up right where he left off in 2022.
The argument could be made that Harris wasn’t just the best rookie on the Braves last year; he was the best player on the entire team, and the guys in that locker room were well aware. Both Matt Olson and Swanson pinpointed the exact moment when things began to feel different in Atlanta. Once Michael Harris II walked into the clubhouse, the Braves went from a .500 team to the best team in baseball over the next four months. He might not have quite the hype as some of the other young stars in the game because of his demeanor, but Michael Harris II is just as good as any player under the age of 25.
Photographer: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire