When Braves traded for Matt Olson, they gave up quite a package. The headliner was Cristian Pache, who’s holding his own with the A’s as their everyday centerfielder. Pache is known for his glove and will likely never compete for a Silver Slugger award, but a career path similar to Kevin Kiermaier seems very possible. Many stated that having Drew Waters waiting in the wings, a player known to be able to handle centerfield, softened the blow of losing Pache.
For me…that was never it. Waters carried a 31% K-rate at AAA last year, not to mention a meager .710 OPS despite posting a well above average .341 BABIP. Waters isn’t the guy that made losing Pache palatable. He never was.
It was always Michael Harris…and he demands our attention.
Who is Michael Harris?
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2019 MLB draft, Harris is a 6’0, 200-pound switch-hitting fellow Georgian from Stockbridge HS. And while Harris could call any of the 3 outfield positions his home, his primary residency has been centerfield, playing 904 of a total 1159.1 innings there. Harris is not necessarily known as a burner, but he is plenty capable to steal a bag or two. However, when it comes to commanding centerfield, he is more similar to Adam Duvall, in which he relies on good reads and instincts to complement his strong throwing arm. So yes…he’s a centerfielder, for now. Later on, maybe when he’s 28 or 29 and is at his peak muscle mass, I could see him moving to a corner, where he’d still be above average defensively.
As stated above, Harris is a switch-hitter who historically hits better from the left side, but the difference seems to be negligible. 2021, our largest sample to date, he carried an .801 OPS against RHP and a .788 OPS against LHP. Since batting LH is his natural side, it seems that it’s his more powerful side with 6 of his 7 total HRs in 2021 coming while batting left-handed.
It’s Scorching Hot in Pearl, MS, and Not just the Weather!
With a 5-6 record, the Braves haven’t been a bad team, nor a good team. However, there’s been real disappointment in outfield defense and offense. Neither Eddie Rosario and Alex Dickerson are known for their gloves (a well-deserved acknowledgement), but they at least normally come with a stick that can hit a tater or two. It hasn’t happened for either yet, as Rosario is carrying a .205 OPS and Dickerson, .217. Marcell Ozuna’s defense is equally disgusting, but the bat is playing and playing very well. Still, when the best outfielder (Adam Duvall) on the team is a leftfielder turned centerfielder because of need, that creates less than stellar defensive results, and boy oh boy have we seen those early on, as Rosario is already at -3 Outs Above Average while Ozuna is -1. In a couple of weeks, Ronald Acuña Jr. will enter the fray, take his position in RF back, and maybe we can see a semi-regular lineup where Rosario moves back to LF and Ozuna takes his place at DH.
And that brings us to Michael Harris. If you’re not paying attention, start. In eight games played, Harris is carrying a .375 average with two triples and two steals for Mississippi. If you’re not aware, Pearl, MS is the most pitching-friendly stadium in ALL of professional baseball and “Money Mike” is mashing there to the tune of a .975 OPS. If he continues to rake in AA, my guess is the 21 y/o could see time in AAA by June or July. From there, if the Braves have a need on the big league club, anything is possible. Acuña climbed three levels in one year, so why can’t Harris?
Photo: Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire