The Brave believed in Atlanta Michael Harris II He had the potential to at least hold his own in the majors after impressing the front office and coaching staff in spring training in both 2021 and ’22.
At the very least, they knew he was the best defensive player in the organization, and with the Braves collegiate center players hitting . 186 through May 27 and the team under . 500, they decided to roll the dice.
The Braves called up the 21-year-old from Double-A despite having played only 43 games above Class A. Harris rewarded the Braves’ faith with one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history, hitting .297/.339/.515 with 19 a home run and 20 stolen bases while playing great defense.
Harris said, “I feel like the whole season was unreal. I was going day by day and thinking I was living the dream. But now that the season is over I think I can actually look back and think about how crazy the year was and how fast it went.”
Harris beat his teammate Spencer Stryder to win the National League Rookie of the Year title on Monday, with 22 first-place votes and 134 points to Strider’s eight first-place votes and 103 points. St Louis Cardinals player Brendan Donovan He finished third in the voting.
Harris and Strider are only the fourth pair of teammates to finish 1-2 in voting since polling began in 1980, joining the Braves’ Craig Kimbrell And the Freddie Freeman In 2011, Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith were the Cubs in 1989 and Alvin Davis and Mark Langston were the Mariners in 1984.
Harris is the ninth player in Braves franchise history to win Rookie of the Year.
Harris was hitting . 305 for Double-A Mississippi when the Braves called him up. Two days later, Strider made his first start after being knocked out of the bullpen to start the season. The Braves hit right away, winning 15 in a row from June 1 through June 15, as Harris hit . 370 in that stretch. The Braves eventually rebounded from 10.5 games behind the Mets in late May to win their fifth consecutive NBL title.
“He’s very calm, and he’s very consistent,” head coach Brian Snicker said of Harris in early September. “The whole thing. He can beat you in different ways. With his glove, his arms, his legs, his bat. Those are very good qualities in a player who can do a lot to influence the match.”
Harris’ overall tools—his Statcast measurements included an above-average 92 outside percentile rating on defense, 95 percent ranking in sprint speed and 95 percent in arm strength—helped him to a 5.3-WAR season, making him just the 34th-ranked player. With the 5.0 WAR since the division era’s inception in 1969.
He did so in just 114 games, the fewest of any player on the list. The only rookies of the year since 2010 with the highest war level were Mike TroutAnd the Jose AbreuAnd the Aaron Judge And the Alonso House.
“He definitely had a great season. We definitely had similar numbers as well,” MLS Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez said of Harris. “He is an exciting player, a young talent, and he is not afraid. I love his game.”
In mid-August, the Braves rewarded Harris with an eight-year, $72 million contract extension through 2030, with two club option seasons that could see him worth $102 million over 10 years. Not bad for a kid who grew up a Braves fan in Stockbridge, Georgia, 35 miles south of Truist Park.
“Yeah, I never thought about 2030,” Harris said when he signed the deal. “This is far. I’m glad I’ve been able to stay here in Atlanta this long.”
The Braves selected the hometown kid in the third round of the 2018 draft — when many teams considered Harris as a pitcher. Watch brave scout Dana Brown, now a scouting director, as an outfielder with strength and speed. As Buster Olney wrote earlier this year, the Braves called on Harris to hit Truist Park before the draft, and he filled the outfield benches with home runs in batting practices.
“I’m a hitter,” Harris told the Braves.
However, Harris hasn’t hit much power in the minors, hitting seven Grade 1 home runs at Rome in 2021 and just five in those 43 games in Double-A. Upon joining the Braves, hitting coach Kevin Setzer forced Harris to make an adjustment, lowering his hands. Harris immediately took the change and his power shot off.
Harris spent the first three months hitting the bottom of the mighty Atlanta lineup, but was in the bottom three going into the final week of the season when the Braves swept the Mets in a deciding series to finish the division title.
“When he matures and becomes this player, we all know he is, he’s probably going to be second or third for a long time,” Snicker said near the end of the season.
Strider also had a great season, going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings pitched. Strider became the 10th rookie since 1969 with 200 strikeouts, the first since Yo Darwish In 2012, his 13.81 strikeouts per nine innings pitched was the second highest ever for a pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched, behind only Gerrit Cole’s 13.82 in 2019.
“Everyone is trying to identify specific checkpoints that they’re trying to hit,” Strider said when he reached 200 strikes. “I don’t think I was trying to hit 200 players in a season. That wasn’t my goal. It was just winning games, keeping us in games, things I could control and control.”
The vote may be closer if Strider hasn’t missed the last two weeks with oblique stress. Strider also got his own financial reward when he signed a six-year, $75 million extension in early October that includes a $22 million club option for 2029.
Harris and Strider will also receive an additional bonus via the pre-arbitration bonus pool agreed upon in the new business deal: $750,000 for Harris and $500,000 for Strider.
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