The Braves have high aspirations to be the first team to repeat as World Series champions since the Yankees did it at the turn of the century. And the club’s rookie phenoms are a driving force in Atlanta’s quest for a second-straight year raising the commissioner’s trophy.
Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Vaughn Grissom might be three of the best rookies in baseball, regardless of position. As it stands, Strider leads the Rookie of the Year race for the National League by a substantial margin, and his performance against the Rockies likely solidifies his standing.
Strider totaled a franchise-record 16 strikeouts and allowed just two hits in eight innings to lead Atlanta to a 3-0 victory over Colorado Thursday night. It was a masterful outing, totaling 106 pitches, with his fastball hitting 98 mph against the last batter. John Smoltz held the previous record with 15 strikeouts in a game against the Mets in 2005 and Montreal in 1992. Warren Spahn also had 15 punchouts in 1960 when the club was in Milwaukee.
He only threw 42 pitches through the first four innings on his way to the longest start of his career while not walking a single batter, making him the fourth rookie in major league history with 16 strikeouts and no walks in a game, according to ESPN. He’s posting an ERA of 2.67 and a FIP of 1.84 while mowing down batters. And the nature of the starting pitcher makes Strider the most valuable out of these rookies, but Harris and Grissom are no slouches themselves.
Harris was just named the August Rookie of the Month, marking the second time in three months he’s won the award — logging a .337/.400/.590 slash line with 16 extra-base hits over 95 at-bats over the period. Even more impressive, over the past three months, a Braves player has won the Rookie of the Month award — Strider in July and Harris in June and August.
Harris’ ascension to the major league club could be argued to be more impactful than Strider. Before him, the Braves outfield was a mess. He solidified the defense and added some much-needed pop to the bottom of the lineup. He’s posting a batting average near .300 with an OPS of .867 for the year. His power at the plate has come in clutch for the team in crucial moments. However, his defense is his best attribute. Harris is already one of the best outfielders the Braves have ever had and will likely win multiple Gold Glove awards, currently sporting a .995 fielding percentage.
Grissom has been doing more of the same; it’s just been over a shorter period. The 21-year-old has been solid at second in the absence of Ozzie Albies, but he’s been better at the plate — slashing .312/.354/.468 with an .821 OPS, three home runs, 10 RBIs, and 17 runs.
The Braves are going to have to rely on this trio of rookies going down the stretch and into the postseason, but these young men are as poised as any veteran in baseball.
John Adams/Icon Sportswire
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