The Athletic names the Braves’ unsung hero

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The Athletic released their MLB power rankings, and as has been the case for over a month now, the Braves owned the top spot. However, this week’s edition focused on the unsung heroes from each team. The Braves have several potential candidates, but The Athletic went with their centerfielder and last year’s NL Rookie of the Year, Michael Harris II.

Ruling all 2023 All-Stars ineligible for unsung-hero status really limits the options here, wiping out most of the Braves lineup. But will I let that bait me into taking a reliever? No way. The Braves would be in first place even if Orlando Arcia was the only guy out in their bullpen. Shoot. They’d be in first place even if Rob Manfred ruled that they — and only they — had to bat a pitcher ninth.

Instead, they get to bat Harris ninth. GMs around the game would do terrible things to have Harris bat ninth and play a premium center field for them. Since bottoming out post-injury with a .163 batting average and .490 OPS in early June, Harris has hit .367 with a .999 OPS in the past 42 games. His strikeout rate is down, and his walk rate is up. He’s back to looking like the 25-25 threat we expected coming into the season. Atlanta has spun its tires since the Fourth of July, so thank heavens for Harris’ return to form. About time something went right for the Braves.

After a miserable start to the season, highlighted by two separate injuries, Harris has found himself over the last couple of months and looked like the player that won Rookie of the Year in 2022. In fact, he’s been even better.

Harris is striking out only 19% of the time in 2023, down from 24.3% as a rookie. He’s also walking 6% of the time, up from 4.8% in 2022. Those are encouraging signs that should only improve with more experience. The power numbers haven’t quite been where they were a year ago, but part of that has to be attributed to the injuries he suffered early in the season.

Some other candidates that should be considered “unsung” heroes for the Braves — remember, All-Stars could not be included — are Charlie Morton and Travis d’Arnaud.

Morton hasn’t gotten enough credit for the season he’s having, posting a 3.62 ERA and 9.7 K/9. His presence in the middle of the Braves rotation has been critical to keeping the group afloat. d’Arnaud is always criminally underrated. He may not be playing as much this season with Sean Murphy in the fold, but when Murphy needs a rest, there has been no drop-off. In 42 games, d’Arnaud owns an .807 OPS and blasted nine homers. He’s been pivotal to what the Braves have accomplished this season.

Photographer: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

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