Harris was a two-way player in high school, and while a lot of scouts thought he had more upside on the mound.
June 2019: The Braves drafted Harris in the third round as an outfielder, out of Stockbridge High School in Georgia. Then signed him for $547,500, via scout Kirk Fredericksson.
Michael grew up in Georgia a big fan of the Braves.
2019 Season: 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.
Michael 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, Georgia, showing evident physical growth from the previous season. He also participated in instructional league, which was held at the same facility in October 2020.
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. (Gabe Burns - Baseball America - Dec. 2020)
In 2020, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Harris as the 13th-best prospect in the Braves' organization in the spring of 2020. He moved up to #11 in 2021. But Michael moved up to #1 in the spring of 2022.
Harris was selected to represent the Braves in the MLB All-Star Futures Game.
2021 Season: Harris did more than enough to prove why he may be the best overall prospect in the Braves system.
He slashed .294/.362/.436 with a .798 OPS to go along with 55 runs scored, 110 hits, 26 doubles, 7 home runs, 64 RBI, and 27 stolen bases. The only thing holding him back is the lack of power, but there is plenty of reason to believe he’ll continue to grow into that power.
Before the 2021 season, Michael made headlines for the 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.”
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.”
Michael also gets rave reviews for his character. (Gabe Burns - Baseball America - Nov., 2021)
March 2, 2022: Michael Harris lived up to lofty expectations during his first full professional season last year. Now, the Braves prospect is ready to take his next step toward potentially becoming a star at the Major League level.
Harris and Shea Langeliers headline the prospects who will be present when the Braves open their Minor League camp at CoolToday Park. The camp will be open to each of the club’s players not currently on the 40-man roster.
“Minor League Spring Training is operating like Minor League Spring Training would,” Braves assistant general manager Ben Sestanovich said. “I think all of these guys are excited to get started.”
Langeliers was part of big league camp the past two years, and Harris experienced his first big league camp last year. Without that option currently available, they will begin their preparations in a different manner this year. But making adjustments is nothing new for these two, or for any of the players who have been selected since the 2019 MLB Draft.
Langeliers was selected out of Baylor University with the ninth overall pick in 2019; the Braves grabbed Harris with a third-round selection the same year. Both players played just over 50 Minor League games that summer and then saw the 2020 season erased by COVID-19.
Instead of their development being completely halted in 2020, the pair took advantage of being selected to work out at the team’s alternate training site at Triple-A Gwinnett’s Coolray Field.
Harris was just 19 years old and a couple months into his professional career. But the suburban Atlanta native lived about 20 minutes south of Turner Field. (M Bowman - MLB.com - March 2, 2022)
March 7, 2022: Upon revealing he began playing golf on a frequent basis the previous offseason, Michael was asked what had been his longest drive?
“The other day I had like 347 yards or something,” Harris said.
While Harris might be a quick study in the golf world, this monstrous drive was just another product of the great strength he has displayed while quickly establishing himself as one of baseball’s best prospects. The young suburban Atlanta outfielder grew up idolizing Jason Heyward, and he may soon become the Braves’ latest hometown superstar.
Harris is ranked as the Braves' No. 4 prospect and the league’s No. 89 prospect overall. He has experienced just one full professional season since being taken in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft, but his stock has soared as he has spent the past two years looking like a future superstar. The Braves became well aware of Harris’ great upside as he impressed while playing against much more experienced talent at the team’s alternate training site during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
But in 2021, the baseball world gained a greater appreciation when he hit .294 with 7 homers and a .798 OPS in 420 plate appearances for High A Rome. Harris was successful with 27 of 31 stolen-base attempts and he earned a Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove Award at the end of his first full season as a pro.
“He’s a special talent,” Braves hitting instructor Greg Walker said. “I think the scouts did a really good job and [scouting director Dana Brown] did a really good job of pulling the trigger on him pretty high. Nobody else was really on him as a hitter. Everybody else was on him as a pitcher.”
Four years after making the wise move to draft Austin Riley as a position player instead of as a pitcher, the Braves did the same with Harris, who had been committed to Texas Tech. Atlanta’s area scouts actually had Harris rated higher as a pitcher, but the club’s take changed when Brown traveled about 25 minutes south of downtown Atlanta to see the left-hander pitch for Stockbridge High School.
Harris pitched just three innings before moving to the outfield during that initial game Brown attended. It didn’t take long for the veteran scout to be sold on the kid’s future as a position player.
“His whole energy level changed when he got to the outfield,” Brown said. “He was bouncing around. He was like, more excited. When he was pitching, it was good enough to be drafted. But I just didn't get the vibe that this was what he really wanted to do.
"He hit a triple that day and about killed the third baseman. I was like, ‘Oh my God, this guy has got energy.’ It was the energy level, the excitement and the naturalness for the position. I was like I’ve seen this movie before.”
While scouting for nearly 30 years, Brown has seen the likes of Nick Markakis and James Loney produce successful careers after initially being projected by some to be pitchers. These experiences gave him even more confidence in Harris, who had also caught the Braves’ attention while playing in the 2018 Hank Aaron Invitational. There certainly hasn’t been any reason to question Brown’s decision. Harris has quickly earned the respect of his fellow prospects, many of whom have seen the ball consistently jump off his bat since Braves Minor League Spring Training began.
“He’s unreal,” Braves catching prosect Shea Langeliers said. “He’s an unreal athlete, an unreal baseball player and a really humble kid. He’s just awesome to be around.”
Growing up in the Atlanta area, Harris has memories of being around seven years old when his youth team got to play wiffleball before a Braves game at Turner Field. He played some games at Truist Park during his high school years and counts Ronald Acuña Jr.’s grand slam in the 2018 NLDS as one of his favorite moments as a fan.
Now, as he prepares to likely begin the upcoming season at the Double-A level, he anxiously looks forward to the chance to be a key member of his hometown team. His anticipation only grew a few months ago when he joined friends and family members to celebrate a postseason that concluded with the Braves winning the World Series.
“Just sitting there watching as a fan instead of a player was like crazy to me,” Harris said. “I was just screaming. It was unbelievable because you know Atlanta teams tend to get there and you know how that goes. So to actually do it and then have Georgia [win college football’s national championship] ... having two teams win in the same year was good.” (M Bowman - MLB.com - March 7, 2022)
Harris is a protégé of former major leaguer Marquis Grissom, who coached him in summer ball during high school and continues to train Harris and a group of other prospects and minor leaguers, most of whom played in Grissom’s program before they were drafted.
When Harris was drawing attention for the first time at 2021 spring training, Grissom told The Athletic that the kid was ready for the majors.
“All I can say as a former player is, he’s different,” Grissom said early last March. “And the last time I saw a player when I said he was different, that was Chipper Jones, that was Barry Bonds, that was Gary Sheffield, that was Jim Thome.
“All the great players, they’re different. And that’s what Mike Harris is — he’s different.”
Harris loved the Braves growing up and was thrilled when they drafted him. And to see them win the World Series, this time with him in the organization, was even more exciting than he imagined.
“I was at the Dodgers (NLCS) Games 1 and 2 in Atlanta at Truist Park, then I watched the World Series at home, and then I went to the parade,” he said. “Me being a (Braves) fan already before, it was even better.
“I definitely want to get there and be a part of it. I’m honestly ready for whatever. I just want to put on for my city.” (O'Brien - TheAthletic.com - January 28, 2022)
Sept 2, 2022: Braves outfielder Michael Harris II has been named the Rookie of the Month for August.
Harris has performed like a star ever since he was called up in late May, but he took his game to another level in August as he registered a .337/.400/.590 slash line with 16 extra-base hits over 95 at-bats. He led rookies in hits (32) and finished tied for sixth among all qualified batters in runs (22).
Harris signed an eight-year contract on Aug. 16 and went right to work on making that deal look good. From that date, he collected at least one hit in 12 of his next 13 games to end the month. That span featured a four-hit night against the Cardinals on Aug. 28.
Harris has now been recognized as Rookie of the Month twice through his first three full months in the bigs. (B Murphy - MLB.com - Sept 2, 2022)
September 2022: Harris won NL Rookie of the Month. Harris, the reigning NL Rookie of the Month, closed out a stellar debut season with a strong September, as the 21-year-old batted .324 with six home runs, 19 RBIs, five doubles and four steals, helping the Braves go 20-8 to storm back and take the lead in the NL East.
On Sept. 9, Harris had his first signature moment of the month when he hit a hustle double and smacked a go-ahead home run in Atlanta's 6-4 win over Seattle, which gave it sole possession of the NL East for the first time in 2022. Two days later, Harris had his best game of the month, tallying two home runs (his first career multi-homer game) and four RBIs in the Braves’ 8-7 loss to the Mariners.
In total, Harris had 10 multi-hit games in September, two of which were three-hit performances. On the year, Harris is batting .298 with 19 home runs and 64 RBIs, which makes it no surprise that he led our recent Rookie of the Year poll. (H Palattella - MLB.com - Oct 3, 2022)
Oct 7, 2022: Michael Harris II and Michael Cloud Jr. shared a brotherly bond as they grew up in the same suburban Atlanta neighborhood. They played sports, created funny videos and hoped to become veterinarians after attending Louisiana State University.
“I feel like he was the older brother I never had,” Harris said.
Everything seemed right before Cloud asked Harris to go to a nearby baseball field to take some swings on July 28, 2016. This was a normal exchange between the friends. But it would be the last conversation they shared.
“When Michael asked to go, I wouldn’t let him go because he had an open house at school,” Harris’ mother LaTaucha Harris said. “We found out the news coming back from the open house that day. Otherwise, he would have been with him.”
As they returned from the open house at Stockbridge High School, Michael Harris and his mother learned Cloud had been killed in an auto accident while driving to the baseball field. The fun-loving 17-year-old died on impact when the driver’s side of his Honda Accord was hit by a Chevy Trailblazer.
“I broke the news to [Michael Harris], and he just stared,” Harris’ mother said. “He was quiet. It was like he couldn’t move.”
Six years later, Harris carries his friend’s memory with him every time he steps on a baseball field. The 21-year-old Atlanta center fielder will be wearing a cloud necklace and a bracelet with Cloud’s name on it when the Braves welcome either the Cardinals or Phillies to Truist Park to begin a National League Division Series This is the same necklace and bracelet he wore throughout the regular season.
LaTaucha Harris and Michael Harris Sr. will be present to see their son play his first postseason game. So, too will Cloud’s mother, Candy Smalls. Whether Harris was playing for Stockbridge High, the Rome Braves or the defending World Series champs, Smalls has been there to support her “second son.”
“Every game that I’m at, she’s there,” LaTaucha Harris said. “She cooks for him. She’s all in. When we went to the World Series festivities last year, she was there. Anything [Michael Harris] does, she’s there. You would think she is his real mom. She gets very emotional. I’m sure a lot of it has to do with her son, but she is genuinely happy for him. She knows it and she loves baseball.”
After her son passed away, Smalls gave Harris a pair of Cloud’s yellow tennis shoes, which have since been placed in a lighted case. Harris has had multiple gloves made that are inscribed with Cloud’s name. He has also written #LLM (Long Live Mike) on many of his hats and gloves to honor his deceased friend. (M Bowman - MLB.com - Oct 7, 2022)
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
2022 Season: 114 G, .297/.339/.514, 19 HR, 3 3B, 27 2B, 64 RBI, 75 R, 20 SB
Harris won the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year for the National League. He was also named the National League Rookie of the Year Award by the BBWAA.
He started this season in Double-A. The Braves promoted him to the majors—skipping Triple-A—as they dealt with some early-season outfield woes. Among them were Ronald Acuña Jr. still recovering from his torn ACL last season and a need to shore up the defense.
Harris more than fit the bill. He played exceptional defense in center field. He rated out well in every advanced metric, sitting at the 93rd percentile in outs above average and 86th percentile in outfielder jump. He had nine defensive runs saved and 1.2 defensive WAR.
As a bit of a bonus, his bat didn't really need much time to come around, either. In 114 games (441 plate appearances), Harris hit .297/.339/.514 when the league average slash line is .243/.311/.395. He posted a 134 OPS+ and 136 wRC+.
In just two-thirds of a season, Harris had 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs and 20 steals in 22 chances. He posted 5.2 WAR on Baseball-Reference and 4.8 on Fangraphs. If you extrapolated his WAR out to a full season of work, he'd be at roughly 7.4. For those less familiar, a general guideline on WAR is that 2-plus is a regular starter, 5-plus is All-Star level and 8-plus is MVP level.
Simply, this was a rock-star all-around performance from a player who didn't have a ton of experience after high school and probably wasn't even expected to stick at the big-league level initially upon his call up. (Matt Snyder - Nov. 15, 2022)
Nov 2022: As Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider shared adjoining lockers within Truist Park’s home clubhouse this year, they fed off each other’s youthful excitement and established themselves as two of the most impressive rookies baseball has seen in years.
When this past season ended, it was presumed these two Braves would finish first and second in balloting for the Jackie Robinson National League Rookie of the Year Award. The only question was who would win. The answer was revealed when Harris was announced as the recipient of this year’s honor.
Harris is the ninth Braves player to be named NL Rookie of the Year and the first since Ronald Acuña Jr. in 2018. This was an honor the 21-year-old center fielder certainly didn’t anticipate when he began this season with Double-A Mississippi.
Harris received 22 of the 30 first-place votes cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, and Strider received the remaining eight. This is the first time teammates have finished first and second in Rookie of the Year balloting since former Braves Craig Kimbrel and Freddie Freeman in 2011. (M Bowman & B Ladson - MLB.com - Nov 14, 2022)
Feb 9, 2023: One of baseball’s best developing stories is told via "Michael Harris II: The Dream and the Journey," a documentary about the reigning NL Rookie of the Year.
This documentary premiered on Braves.com, the Braves’ Facebook page, and their YouTube channel. The 20-minute film chronicles how Harris realized a dream this summer after he debuted for the Braves just three years after graduating from suburban Atlanta’s Stockbridge High School.
Former Braves vice president of scouting and current Astros GM Dana Brown is among those featured in the short film. Brown discusses how he and his scouts found Harris playing in annual showcase games, such as the Hank Aaron Invitational and 44 Classic presented by Nike.
The documentary provides a glimpse into Harris’ childhood via pictures and stories provided by his parents, Michael and LaTaucha Harris. Both take time to reminisce about the good times they had watching their son hone his baseball skills at Gresham Park and various locations around Atlanta.
Viewers will also get a chance to hear from former Braves Marquis Grissom and Marvin Freeman, who have continued to make an impact while coaching youth baseball teams in the Atlanta area. They discuss their earliest memories of Harris, who spent his high school years playing for teams sponsored by Grissom. (M Bowman - MLB.com - Feb 9, 2023)
June 2019: The Braves drafted Harris in the third round as an outfielder, out of Stockbridge High School in Georgia. Then signed him for $547,500, via scout Kirk Fredericksson.
Aug 16, 2022: Harris signed an eight-year, $72 million deal with the Braves. The deal would be worth $102 million over 10 years if options for the 2031 and 2032 seasons are exercised.
|Birth City:||DeKalb, GA|
|Draft:||Braves #3 - 2019 - Out of high school (GA)|
Harris, a switch-hitter, has quick bat speed and makes consistent hard contact. He is developing into a 60 grade hitter with a 55 grade power. He has impressive bat-to-ball skills. His power numbers will go up.
Even the Braves have to admit Harris has gotten a lot better a lot faster than expected, though they saw improvement internally during 2020 and some of the gains showed up in the public eye in 2021. An aggressive hitter from the left side of the plate, Harris has shown an innate ability to make a lot of hard contact. There has been concern about his chase rate, but he made strides in that area in 2021, upping his walk rate considerably and seeing that rate decrease, all of which will help him tap into his raw power. (Spring 2022)
The Braves were one of the few teams who liked Harris more as a hitter than as a pitcher and it’s looking like they were right. After a strong pro debut that saw the Georgia high schooler reach full-season ball, he really took off in 2021, jumping to High-A and finishing with a .294/.362/.436 line and 27 steals. There’s some concern about his chase rate, but even in that regard he improved as the season wore on and he’s poised to make a nice jump up lists in 2022. (Spring 2022)
At this point, scouts inside and outside of Atlanta’s organization view Harris as the best pure hitter in the system. Officially listed as a switch-hitter, Harris took all his swings from the left side this year, but shows impressive feel to hit with loose wrists, easy hands and impressive plate coverage. Harris’s plate coverage is so good that he can give away at-bats at times by being overly aggressive and chasing out over the plate, above it or on the inner half. Harris identifies pitches well, however, and when he focused on eliminating his inside chases during the second half of the season, saw his on-base percentage shoot up to .400 over the final two months.
There’s plenty of strength in his filled-out frame, and scouts note that he drops the bat head with force throughout the zone. He’s produced exit velocities routinely in the 110-114 mph range, and while he hit just seven home runs this year, he played his home games at one of the most depressing offensive environments in minor league baseball. All of his seven home runs came on the road and his home (.282/.361/.363) and road (.305/.363/.498) splits suggest more power than his overall numbers might indicate. (Carlos Colazzo - Baseball America Prospect Handbook - Spring, 2022)
Michael was impressive at the Braves' alternate site in 2020, putting up quality at-bats against the team's top pitching prospects. However, Harris has some holes in his swing that he will have to close vs. upper-level pitching.
There might not be any prospect with as much upside potential as Harris. He has good bat speed and the ability to make hard contact from both sides of the plate. While he’s been more of a line-drive hitter, there is plus raw power to tap into as he improves things like pitch recognition, and it showed up a bit against older competition at the alternate site in 2020.
And in 2021, he was hitting screaming line drives. He has posted an 114 mph exit velocity and has topped 110 mph multiple times. An instinctive plus runner, he should be able to steal bases.
Harris on his chase rate in 2021: "It came up last year. I'm normally an aggressive hitter. And I feel like last year, in the beginning of the season, I was a little too aggressive. I was still making contact on balls out of the zone, but I wasn't getting as many walks as I was trying to hit everything. So, the second half of the season, I really worked on trying to see pitches and actually swinging at pitches earlier in the count that I could drive. So, that really got my walk rate up at the end."
Michael displays a more advanced offensive approach than anticipated by some skeptical scouts about his hitting ability, barreling balls consistently.
Harris is a bundle of tools, all a bit raw, though he certainly showed more with the bat during his debut than anticipated. The switch-hitter made consistent loud contact in the GCL, showing strength and bat speed. There’s plenty of raw power to tap into as well as he learns to refine his approach, which was pretty advanced for a two-way high schooler. Working on a gameplan at the plate and recognizing breaking stuff will allow him to tap into that pop more consistently. (Spring 2020)
Michael needs to shorten his swing that gets lengthy at times, with significant wrap. There are some holes in his swing that need fixed. He will have to learn to trust his natural bat speed to get the most of his tools at the plate. (2020)
Asked what is key to his success against lefties, and for his consistency against both lefties and righties, Harris said, "I kind of go at it the same way I do against righties. It's all about preparation and routine before the game. Just knowing the pitcher and knowing how they like to work, where they like to work, what they do in certain situations. It's really just preparation."
May 2, 2022: Harris repeated as Minor League Prospect Team of the Week. Atlanta’s top prospect has been authoring a terrific season since Opening Day but put together one of his best strings last week. Harris helped lead Mississippi to a six-game series win on the road at Montgomery by tallying hits in all six affairs, with at least one run scored in five and at least one RBI in four.
The 21-year-old also swiped three bases, second-most among honorees for the week. Harris wrapped up the week by contributing to Mississippi’s extra-innings victory, belting a pair of solo home runs, including one as part of his squad’s six-run 10th. Just 21, Harris has been one of the best performers in the Southern League this season, batting .333/.396/.586 with four homers, 19 RBIs, 16 runs scored and nine stolen bases.
2022 MLB Pipeline's All-Rookie First Team - OF: Michael Harris II, Braves
114 G, .297/.339/.514, 19 HR, 3 3B, 27 2B, 64 RBI, 75 R, 20 SB
It’s hard to imagine now, but Harris still has never seen Triple-A. The Braves called him up from Mississippi on May 28, and by using improved pop and his trademark stellar center-field defense, Harris locked down the middle of the grass, earning himself an eight-year, $72 million extension along the way. (S Dykstra - MLB.com - Oct 16, 2022)
Michael is an athletic center fielder with plus speed, running down balls with ease as a 60 grade defender and showing a strong 60 grade arm with a short throwing stroke that makes him a very solid right fielder.
The Braves feel Harris is one of the better defensive outfielders in the Minors, on par with Cristian Pache and Drew Waters. He has impressive instincts and a quick first step. While he’s not a pure burner, he gets very good reads and routes and the arm that made him an intriguing pitching prospect is plus from center field. Harris has rapidly become one of the more intriguing outfield prospects in baseball as he reaches the upper levels. (Spring 2022)
Harris makes the game look easy on both sides of the ball. Internal and external scouts alike praise Harris’s instincts and ability in the middle of the outfield now and he could be an above-average or plus defender at the position if he can continue showing a plus run tool moving forward. Some scouts think that because of his thicker lower half and filled out frame, Harris will slow down in the future, but he does have plus arm strength that should allow him to handle any outfield position if necessary.
Michael's speed plays in the outfield, where he should have no problem manning center field for a long time. He played mostly center and right, where his plus arm looks good, during his pro debut and should keep seeing time in all three spots. The Braves loved how well he competed at the alternate site, thinking it’s a harbinger of things to come. (Spring 2021)
Harris has good instincts on the basepaths and the speed to be a threat as well as cover ground in the outfield. While there’s no reason to think Harris can’t play center field right now, he’ll likely see time in all three spots and he could outgrow the position.
His plus arm that fired low-90s fastballs off the mound certainly would work in right field. Harris opened a lot of eyes during his pro debut, leaving the Braves excited for what he can do in his first full season of pro ball. (Spring 2020)
2022: Best Defensive Prospect—OF: Michael Harris, Braves (No. 4/MLB No. 89)
Known more as a left-handed pitching prospect for much of his amateur career, Harris wanted to hit, and the Braves obliged after taking him in 2019's third round out of a Georgia high school. He's similar to Pache, albeit with plus rather than plus-plus speed and arm strength, and likely will shift to right field if they play in the same Atlanta outfield. (J Callis - MLB.com - Feb 22, 2022)
- Michael has 55 grade speed. He is very fast under way and has solid baserunning ability, stealing some bases.
- In 2022, his rookie year with the Braves, Harris stole 20 bases and got caught only 2 times.
Aug 3, 2022: Harris was scratched from the lineup because of a sore right foot after being hit on the foot by a pitch on Aug 2.
April 7-28, 2023: The Braves placed Harris on the IL with a lower back strain.
"I don't think it's something serious," Harris said. "But you don't want to play through it and cause something worse. So I guess taking these days off would be best."
The Braves and Harris seem confident he will be ready to play when he is eligible to come off the injured list on April 17. The young outfielder might have been ready to play near the end of this current homestand, but the club decided it was best to give Harris extra rest and avoid the risk of playing with a short roster for a few days.