Michael Harris II is the youngest player in the MLB, but he’s played like an MVP candidate since being called up to the majors a few weeks ago. To go along with his stellar defense in centerfield, the Stockbridge native has hit .346 with a .949 OPS, including three home runs and 13 RBIs.
His three hits last night against the Giants pushed his wRC+ to 160 on the season, and Harris has now accrued 1.3 fWAR in just 22 games, which is more than FanGraphs projected for him during the entire season. It also puts him on a nearly 10 WAR pace over a full 162-game season. In such a short amount of time, Harris has become a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate and would probably be up for the All-Star Game had he received the call just a little bit earlier, but what should Braves fans realistically expect from Atlanta’s newest sensation moving forward?
This question has to be answered in two parts — short-term and long-term. I’ll start with the easier of the two, which is the long-term. Over the course of his career in Atlanta, Braves fans can expect Harris II to turn into a superstar. He is the youngest player in the majors, and he’s already clearly one of the most talented players on the field. Harris is probably the most athletic player on the Braves roster right now — even slightly ahead of Ronald Acuña — and it can be seen in every facet of his game.
Defensively, Harris’ range is unmatched, and he has a cannon for an arm to boot. Offensively, he boasts a well-above-average contact bat along with legitimate home run power to all fields. All three of his home runs so far this season have been to the opposite field. And, of course, he’s a threat to steal 30+ bases a season thanks to his speed. The term five-tool prospect is often thrown around way too often, but Harris II fits the description to a T.
In the short term, however, this could go in several different directions. Fans must temper expectations because his current production isn’t sustainable. Top prospects come up all the time and take the league by storm, but in nearly every case, the league eventually figures out their weaknesses, and they hit a few bumps in the road. Inevitably, that will happen to Harris, just as we saw with Austin Riley a few years back. However, thanks to his contact bat and elite defense, I don’t think the drop-off will be nearly as significant.
At his worst, Harris should still be able to hit around .250 and provide Gold Glove-caliber defense in centerfield. That will be enough to keep him in Atlanta for good, and eventually, he should make adjustments of his own and look like the budding star Braves fans have come to expect.
When Alex Anthopoulos called Harris up from Double-A Mississippi in late May, the Braves boasted a 22-24 record. However, since then, Atlanta has a 16-4 record, including a 14-game winning streak, which is tied for the second-longest in franchise history. Over that streak, Harris hit .370 with nine extra-base hits, 10 RBIs, ten runs scored, and a 1.033 OPS.
He’s been a breath of fresh air for a Braves outfield that was anything but prior to Harris being called up. The move allowed Adam Duvall to slide over to left field, which has benefited the veteran’s bat. And the infusion of Harris has also allowed Marcell Ozuna to permanently assume the DH role, eliminating the difficult decision to play him in the field. The Braves’ improvement has featured several important turnarounds from key pieces, but I think it’s fair to say the biggest difference between the team today and the one from a month ago is the emergence of Michael Harris II.
Photographer: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire