The Braves sit at 25-27 through 52 games and 9.5 games behind the Mets for first place in the NL East. If it sounds bad, it’s because it is, but imagine how much worse this might look without the contributions of Spencer Strider, William Contreras, and most recently, Michael Harris.
Let’s start with the man I believe has a fantastic chance of nabbing Rookie of the Year honors — Spencer Strider. The hard-throwing righty has thrived in every role the Braves have used him in. He started out as a long reliever, piggybacking starters and usually pitching in low-leverage situations. Then when Tyler Matzek went down with injury, the Braves needed him more often in critical spots late in games. Regardless of the situation, Strider has found success, and now he’s finally getting an opportunity to start. Perhaps he runs across some difficulties in his new role, but I have a feeling he could end up sticking there for the foreseeable future.
One of the guys Strider throws to often has also burst onto the scene. I’m told William Contreras doesn’t plan to stay in his brother’s shadow for much longer, and at this rate, we might be talking about who is better before long. Contreras has been a man on a mission all season, hitting .302 with seven homers in just 18 games. His OPS is a ridiculous 1.095 and his OPS+ his 194. He’s been almost 100% better than the average major-league hitter this season. Sure, regression is in line, but the Braves don’t need him to be an All-Star caliber contributor. He’s already played a considerable role when the team needed him most, which is probably more than the Braves expected out of him coming into the season.
Finally, we have the highly anticipated debut of Michael Harris, which he’s somehow managed to live up to so far. At first it was his defense, and highlight grabs like these:
Starting to think Michael Harris might be the best professional athlete to ever wear No. 23 pic.twitter.com/T6UQpKy75z
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) June 1, 2022
Now, it’s Harris’ offense that has begun to impress. He has five hits in his last three games, picking up his first two RBIs in the process. I’m not sure his success in the majors is sustainable at just 21-years-old without AAA experience. With Eddie Rosario returning, the Braves should eventually be able to live without him, but if Harris continues to play like this, that job in center field will be his to keep.