The Atlanta Braves believed Michael Harris II After impressing the front office and coaching staff in both 2021 and ’22 spring training, he at least had the ability to hold his own on the field.
At least they knew he was the best defensive center fielder in the organization, and the Braves decided to roll the dice, with center fielders hitting .186 through May 27 and a team below .500.
The Braves called the 21-year-old up from Double-A, although he played just 43 games above Class A. Harris rewarded the Braves’ faith by hitting .297/.339/ with one of the best rookie seasons in franchise history. .515 with 19 home runs and 20 stolen bases while playing outstanding defense.
“The whole season feels unreal,” Harris said. “I was just going day by day and living the dream, I guess. But now that the season is over, I can look back and think about what a crazy year it was and how fast it went.”
Harris beat his teammate Spencer Strider On Monday, he collected 22 first-place votes and 134 points to Strider’s eight first-place votes and 103 points to win the National League Rookie of the Year award. St. Louis Cardinals utility player Brendan Donovan He finished third in the polls.
In the year Joining the Braves in 1980, Harris and Strider became the fourth pairing to finish 1-2 in the voting. Craig Kimberly And Freddie Freeman In the year in 2011, the Cubs’ Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith in 1989 and the Mariners’ Alvin Davis and Mark Langston in 1984.
Harris is the ninth player in Braves franchise history to win the Rookie of the Year award.
Harris was hitting .305 for Double-A Mississippi when the Braves called him up. Two days later, Strider made his first start since pitching out of the bullpen to start the season. The Braves immediately took off and went on a 15-game winning streak from June 1 to June 15, and Harris hit .370 in that stretch. The Braves finally won their fifth straight NL East title in late May, coming back 10.5 games behind the Mets.
“He’s very steady, and he’s very consistent,” manager Brian Snitker said of Harris in early September. “It’s the whole thing. He can hit you in so many different ways. With his glove, his arm, his legs, his bat. Those are great traits to have in a player who can do so much to impact the game.”
Harris’ all-around tools — his Statcast metrics ranked above average in the 92nd percentile on defense, 95th percentile in sprint speed and 95th percentile in arm strength — helped him to a 5.3-WAR season, the 34th starting position player with 5.0 WAR since the divisional era began in 1969.
In mid-August, the Braves awarded Harris an eight-year, $72 million contract extension that runs through 2030, potentially worth $102 million over 10 years with two club option periods. Not bad for a kid who grew up a Braves fan in Stockbridge, Georgia, about 35 miles south of Trust Park.
“Yeah, I definitely never thought about 2030,” Harris said as he signed the deal. “It’s been a long time. I’m happy to be here in Atlanta for a long time.”
The Braves selected the hometown boy in the third round of the 2018 draft — when many teams viewed Harris as a pitcher. Braves scout Dana Brown, now director of scouting, sees an outfielder with power and speed. As Buster Olney wrote earlier this year, the Braves invited Harris to hit at Trust Park before the draft, and he filled the outfield seats with home runs in batting practice.
“I’m a killer,” Harris told the Braves.
But Harris didn’t hit for much power in the minors in 2021, slugging seven home runs at Class A and just five in those 43 games at Double-A. When he joined the Braves, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer made adjustments by putting his hands down. Harris immediately took the change and the power took off.
Harris spent the first three months hitting in the bottom of a strong Atlanta lineup, but was hitting third in the final week of the season as the Braves swept the Mets in a crucial series to clinch the division title.
“When he grows up and is the player we all know he is, he’s probably going to be in that No. 2 or 3 spot for a long time,” Sinitker said late in the season.
Strider had an outstanding season, going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings. Strider became the 10th starter since 1969 with 200 strikeouts Yu Darvish In the year His 13.81 strikeouts per nine innings in 2012 were the second most ever for a pitcher with at least 100 innings, trailing only Gerrit Cole’s 13.82 in 2019.
When Strider reaches that 200-strikeout milestone, “everyone tries to identify certain checkpoints that they want to hit. “I don’t think I’ve ever tried to hit 200 guys in a season. That was not my goal. “Winning games, staying in games, that’s something I can and will control.”
If Strider hadn’t carelessly missed the last two-plus weeks, the vote might have been closer. Strider received his own cash reward when he signed a six-year, $75 million extension in early October that included a 2029 club option for $222 million.
Harris and Strider will receive additional bonuses through the pre-arbitration bonus pool agreed upon in the new employment contract: $750,000 for Harris and $500,000 for Strider.