Before the season, outfielder Michael Harris made headlines for the profuse praise he received from Braves manager Brian Snitker.
“That’s an impressive looking ballplayer right there,” Snitker said at the time. “You talk about skills, approach . . . I don’t think I’d lose money if I say he’s going to be a young big leaguer.”
The 20-year-old Harris met his lofty expectations this season at High-A Rome. He hit .294/.362/.436 with 26 doubles, three triples, seven home runs and 64 RBIs in his second full pro season. He went 27-for-31 on stolen bases.
His production matched the preseason hype. In July, Harris was asked about Snitker’s comments. He said he was flattered, but he stressed it means little unless he continues growing.
“Coming from a major league manager, that’s good,” Harris said. “But I still have to go out and do what I can do every day. I’m not thinking about that. I’m just trying to get better every day to get there.”
Harris, a 2019 third-rounder from Stockbridge (Ga.) High, was also scouted as a lefthanded pitcher as an amateur. The Braves, tantalized by his athleticism, viewed him as a lefthanded-hitting center fielder.
He has made a strong impression since. The 6-foot, 195-pound Harris is the next in a long line of Atlanta-area talents to become top Braves prospects, following the likes of Jeff Francoeur, Brian McCann, Jason Heyward and Dansby Swanson.
“It’s definitely great, I really love all the fans,” Harris said. “They give us a lot of support. It’s fantastic actually. Being local, a lot of minor league teams are in the area, so it’s not really far for my family to come watch.”
Harris, who drew rave reviews at the alternate training site last summer for not only his talent but his character, will enter 2022 with even higher expectations. He’s primed for a quick ascension through the system.
Perhaps he’ll establish himself as the organization’s No. 1 prospect while doing so.
— Righthander Bryce Elder had a case to be the Braves’ minor league player of the year. The 2020 fifth-rounder from Texas went from High-A Rome to Triple-A Gwinnett this season, posting a 2.75 ERA across three levels. He impressed more in Triple-A than he did in Double-A Mississippi.
Elder, who struck out 155 hitters in 137.2 innings, has positioned himself for a 2022 major league debut.
— Catcher Shea Langeliers had a strong season at Double-A Mississippi, showing his budding power potential with 22 home runs and displaying stellar defense. He used his plus arm to throw out 42% of basestealers. He received a late promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett after Mississippi’s season ended.
— Another minor league player of the year candidate was 22-year-old righthander Spencer Strider, who began the year in Low-A Augusta and was promoted to Triple-A in late September. Strider struck out 153 across 94 minor league innings and earned a callup to Atlanta on Oct. 1.