On May 28, 2022, the Atlanta Braves called up their top prospect: Michael Harris. Harris had played a measly 197 minor-league games including just 43 at Double-A Mississippi. However, it took just one game for Harris’ presence to be felt as he recorded his first hit in his MLB debut.
Through 26 games, Michael Harris (MLB Pipeline"s No. 53 prospect) is batting .319. He is batting at or above .300 against both lefties and righties, an impressive feat considering Harris is a left-handed hitter. Harris has shown an impressive ability to spread the ball around the ballpark. Of Harris’ first 30 MLB hits, 19 were up the middle and five were to the opposite field. This includes five of his six doubles and two of his three home runs.
Harris is overperforming so far as he only has a .276 expected batting average. However, this is still 21 points above the MLB average, so Harris is certainly not struggling at the plate. Harris is tied for fifth on the team in expected batting average.
In the minors, Harris posted a mediocre .149 ISO. While he had 50 doubles and nine triples, he only hit 14 home runs across 739 at-bats. At the Double-A level, he showed more of a power stroke, slugging .506 for an ISO of .201, however. In the Majors, Harris has an ISO of .202, has six doubles, two triples, and a trio of home runs to this point while slugging .521 through 94 at-bats.
Michael Harris’ hardest-hit ball this season was 109.2 miles per hour, which ranks in the 56th percentile across MLB this season. Harris has posted an average exit velocity of 88.6 miles per hour, a figure that would rank in the 41st percentile this season if he qualified. There are some effective hitters in this range (including Luis Arraez and Nolan Arenado), but it seems that power is Harris’ weakest tool. He will leg out extra doubles and triples due to his speed, but the home run power needs more development.
Michael Harris has batted ninth in all 26 games and he functions as a secondary lead-off hitter in front of Ronald Acuña Jr. Harris only has two steals so far in the Majors, but he stole 11 bases in 43 Double-A games this year, and he swiped 27 bases in 101 High-A games in 2021. However, Harris is in the 93rd percentile in sprint speed, a trait that helps him both on the basepaths and in the outfield. Harris has taken the extra base in 88% of opportunities, more than twice as often as the average MLB player this season.
The greatest consequence of Harris’ elite speed is saving Adam Duvall and Acuña in the outfield. Both have the range to play centerfield, but Harris lets both players save some energy to perform at the plate. For Duvall in particular, the difference in his production when playing left field versus center field is dramatic. His OPS is 296 points higher when playing in left as opposed to playing in center. Acuña is also still recovering from a torn ACL, so Harris’ speed can also keep Acuña from over exertion.
While Harris has yet to make an outfield assist, he flashed his strong arm in preventing batters from taking an extra base. He has been accurate in throwing to bases, and he will eventually make a highlight reel with an outfield assist. The combination of Harris’ speed and arm strength fundamentally changes how he can play defense in the Braves outfield. He significantly reduces the amount of available grass for opposing batted balls.
So far, Harris has accumulated +3 outs above average and has accumulated +1 defensive runs saved. His speed and arm strength help, but Harris has a natural feel in center field. He is helped by playing with a Gold Glover in left field and an above-average defensive right fielder (when healthy), but Harris more than holds his own. He is on pace for 1.2 dWAR over 162 games and he should compete for Gold Gloves in the future.
Michael Harris has been a revelation so far for the Atlanta Braves. Since his call-up, the Braves are 19-7, a 73.1% win rate. While the Braves will not continue that for the duration of the season, Harris makes the rest of the lineup significantly better. First, Harris is a left-handed batter in a right-handed heavy lineup, especially with Ozzie Albies out. As long as Albies is out, the Braves will be trotting out seven right-handed batters, Matt Olson, and Harris.
Harris is a gamechanger in the outfield just by existing. He enables Duvall to settle into left field while pushing Marcell Ozuna to the designated hitter role. The Braves have been using Acuña heavily in right field recently, but they could DH him and play Ozuna in left with Duvall moving to right. Without Harris, the Braves would be forced into a subpar defensive arrangement.
Harris"s greatest attribute is his ability to flip the lineup. While he has not drawn many walks, his .347 on-base percentage helps the top of the order drive in runs. In the usual batting lineup, Harris is followed by four consecutive hitters who have a slugging percentage over .460. Over 162 games, Harris is on pace to score 100 runs (no nine-hole hitter has ever scored more than 72 runs in a season). If Harris plays the rest of the season (116 games), he would be on pace for 71.
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