Harris edges out Braves teammate Strider for NL ROY

Harris edges out Braves teammate Strider for NL ROY

The Atlanta Braves believed Michael Harris II had the ability to hold his own at least at the majors after impressing the front office and coaching staff during spring training in 2021-22.

At a minimum, they knew he was the best defensive center back in the organization, and with the Braves center backs hitting 0.186 collective through May 27 and the team under .500, they decided to roll the dice. .

The Braves called the 21-year-old out of Double-A even though he had only played 43 games above Class A. Harris rewarded the Braves’ belief with one of the best rookie seasons in the league. franchise history, hitting .297/.339/.515 with 19 homers and 20 stolen bases while playing outstanding defense.

“I feel like the whole season was unrealistic,” Harris said. “I was just going day to day and I guess I was living the dream. But now that the season is over I guess I can look back and think how crazy this year has been and how fast it is. aisle.

Harris beat teammate Spencer Strider to earn National League Rookie of the Year honors on Monday, garnering 22 first-place votes and 134 points to Strider’s eight first-place votes and 103 points. St. Louis Cardinals utility player Brendan Donovan finished third in voting.

Harris and Strider are just the fourth pair of teammates to finish 1-2 in voting since ranked balloting began in 1980, joining Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman of the Braves in 2011, Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith of the Cubs in 1989 and the Mariners. ‘ Alvin Davis and Mark Langston 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. Two days later, Strider made his first start after coming out of the bullpen to start the season. The Braves immediately took off, winning 15 straight from June 1 to June 15, with Harris hitting .370 in that streak. The Braves eventually rallied 10.5 games behind the Mets in late May to claim their fifth consecutive NL East title.

“He’s very calm and he’s very consistent,” manager Brian Snitker said of Harris in early September. “That’s all. He can beat you in different ways. With his glove, with his arm, with his legs, with his bat. Those are very good qualities to have in a player who can do so much to impact the game. .”

Harris’ comprehensive tools — his Statcast metrics included a 92nd percentile rating in above-average outs on defense, a 95th percentile rating in sprint speed, and a 95th percentile in arm strength — helped him to a season of 5.3-WAR, making him just the 34th rookie position player with 5.0 WAR since the start of the Divisional era in 1969.

He did it in just 114 games, the fewest of any player on the roster. The only Rookies of the Year since 2010 with higher WAR were Mike Trout, Jose Abreu, Aaron Judge and Pete Alonso.

“He’s definitely had a great season. We’ve had similar numbers as well,” American League Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez said of Harris. “He’s an exciting player, a young talent. And he’s not afraid. I love his game.”

In mid-August, the Braves rewarded Harris with an eight-year contract extension worth $72 million through 2030, with two seasons of club options that could net him $102 million on 10 years. Not bad for a kid who grew up as a Braves fan in Stockbridge, Georgia, 35 miles south of Truist Park.

“Yeah, I definitely never thought about the year 2030,” Harris said when he signed the deal. “It’s a long way off. I’m just glad I can 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 a pitcher. Braves scout Dana Brown, now director of scouting, saw a powerful and fast outfielder. As Buster Olney wrote earlier this year, the Braves invited Harris to hit Truist Park before the draft, and he filled the outside seats with home runs in batting practices.

Harris told the Braves, “I’m a hitter.”

Harris, however, hadn’t hit with much power in the minors, hitting seven Class A home runs in Rome in 2021 and just five in those 43 Double-A games. Upon joining the Braves, hitting coach Kevin Seitzer called on Harris to make an adjustment, putting his hands down. Harris immediately embraced the change and his power took off.

Harris spent his first three months hitting the bottom of a strong Atlanta lineup, but fell to third place the final week of the season when the Braves swept the Mets in a crucial series to wrap up the division title.

“As he matures and becomes this player that we all know he is, he’ll probably stay number 2 or 3 for a long time,” Snitker said towards the end of the season.

Strider also had a standout season, going 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings. Strider became just the 10th rookie since 1969 with 200 strikeouts and the first since Yu Darvish in 2012. His 13.81 strikeouts per nine innings was the second-highest on record for a pitcher with at least 100 innings. , behind only Gerrit Cole’s 13.82 in 2019.

“Everyone is trying to identify specific checkpoints that they’re trying to hit,” Strider said of hitting that 200 out milestone. “I don’t think I was trying to knock out 200 guys in a season. That wasn’t my goal. It was just to win games, keep us in games, things that I can control and control. “

The vote might have been closer if Strider hadn’t missed the last two weeks with an oblique stump. Strider also received his own financial reward when he signed a six-year, $75 million extension in early October, which includes a $22 million club option for 2029.

Harris and Strider will also receive an additional bonus through the pre-arbitration bonus pool agreed to in the new labor agreement: $750,000 for Harris and $500,000 for Strider.

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