Michael Harris Is Poised To Rise Quickly
The Braves’ farm system is falling back to earth after several years of producing elite talents, many of whom helped the team reach its first Championship Series in nearly 20 years.
But as the organization tries to maintain a strong pipeline, it will need a few unheralded prospects to pop. Among those providing the most hope is outfielder Michael Harris, who could develop into the Braves’ top position prospect.
The Braves drafted Harris, a local product at Stockbridge (Ga.) High, in the third round in 2019. It was a “dream” for Harris, who grew up following the Braves and trained in Marquis Grissom’s local baseball program.
Harris, who will be 20 next season, was considered a pitcher and outfielder before his draft. He threw up to 91 mph from the left side, according to Braves scouting director Dana Brown, but the Braves saw him exclusively as an outfielder, lauding his athleticism, defensive prowess and power potential.
“He really has power, athleticism,” Brown said. “We were very fortunate to get him.”
After months of training in nearby Henry County during the pandemic shutdown, Harris spent 2020 at the Braves' alternate training site in Gwinnett, Ga., showing evident physical growth from last season. He also participated in instructional league, which was held at the same facility in October.
In 2019, Harris hit .349/.403/.514 with six doubles, three triples and two home runs in 31 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He hit just .183 in 22 games at low Class A Rome, though he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he felt he made strides defensively during that time.
Those who have encountered Harris in the organization have raved about his character and mentality. His general makeup is largely why so many are encouraged he will reach his potential as an everyday player who can impact games with his defense, speed and bat.
Next season Harris' emphasis shifts to making more consistent contact. If he does, he could lead the next wave of Atlanta prospects.
— Outfielder Jesse Franklin, whom the Braves drafted in the third round in 2020, has impressed with his athleticism and defense. His offense will determine whether he can become an everyday player, but his raw tools make him one of the organization's more fascinating unknowns entering next season, which will be his pro debut.
— Lefthander Jared Shuster, the Braves’ first-round pick in June, possesses perhaps the best changeup in the system. The team was pleased with his progress at the alternate training site. Shuster was also part of their instructional league roster.