In the 13-hit barrage the Atlanta Braves laid on Oakland on Wednesday night, the biggest blast might have come in the fifth inning from the rookie in the 9-hole. Michael Harris II, who was playing for the Mississippi Braves less than two weeks ago, stroked a two-run triple, a laser down the right-field line that gave the Braves their first lead in what became a 13-2 victory. It was the team’s seventh straight victory; they are unbeaten since manager Brian Snitker called a team meeting before their last game in Arizona to address lackluster play. Finally, the defending champions are playing like one should. Harris’ contributions have been subtle but impactful, especially his defense in center field. “The jumps, his arm and the reads, he’s been really, really impressive,” Snitker told mlb.com. Harris, only 21, is batting .268 with five RBIs in 11 games. He was wearing out the Double-A Southern League, hitting .305 with five homers, 33 RBIs, 33 runs, 11 steals, 16 doubles and two triples when he was somewhat surprisingly called to The Show on May 28. Atlanta has become incredibly adept at developing talent in the minors and plugging in pieces at just the right time. Harris is fitting in with a lineup that, on Wednesday, included seven former M-Braves stars. They combined for eight hits, two walks, three homers, nine RBIs and eight runs. Austin Riley, the DeSoto Central High alum, hit his 15th homer, also in that pivotal four-run fifth inning. William Contreras, seemingly from out of nowhere, has eight bombs. Starting pitcher Ian Anderson, an M-Braves alum, worked a strong six innings for his fifth win. All but one of Atlanta’s 57 games has been started by a former M-Braves pitcher. This largely homegrown team has won four straight division titles and may have launched its drive toward a fifth.
Michael Harris II is making the jump from Double-A to the big leagues, having been called up from Mississippi to Atlanta this morning. Look for the Braves’ top prospect to start in center field today (3:15 p.m.) when the Braves play Miami at Truist Park. Harris, 21, out of Stockbridge, Ga., is batting .305 with five homers, 33 RBIs and 11 steals in 43 games for the M-Braves. He is a .292 hitter over 197 minor league games since 2019. This debut could be something special. Since 2005, several M-Braves alums have had memorable debuts: Brian McCann (2-for-3 with an RBI on June 10, 2005); Jeff Francoeur (1-for-4 with a homer in 2005); Jordan Schafer (2-for-3 with a homer in his first at-bat in 2009); Jason Heyward (2-for-5 with a homer in his first AB in 2010); Evan Gattis (1-for-4 with a homer in 2013); Dansby Swanson (2-for-4 in 2016); Ronald Acuna (1-for-5 in 2018); Austin Riley (1-for-3 with a homer in 2019); and Cristian Pache (1-for-4 in 2020).
The mlb.com list of the Top 100 minor league prospects has been refreshed, and Michael Harris II of the Mississippi Braves checks in at No. 59. 59? Really? It is hard to imagine there are 58 better “prospects” in the minors. Sure, Harris is only 21 and only in his third season of pro ball. But he is flourishing in Double-A, the make-or-break level. He has a sweet combination of power and speed. At 6 feet, 195 pounds, the left-handed hitting Harris resembles a slightly larger version of Ralph Garr, the Atlanta star of the early 1970s. Harris currently is batting .296 with five homers, 27 RBIs and 10 steals in 40 games with the M-Braves. He has a .356 on-base percentage and a .506 slug. And he’s been making great catches on a nightly basis in center field. … The only Mississippi product on the new 100 is Mississippi State alumnus Justin Foscue, who is at Double-A Frisco in the Texas system. The 2020 first-round pick, a second baseman, is hitting .303 with two homers and 17 RBIs. He has struck out just 18 times and walked 18 times.
One month from today, the Mississippi Braves, defending champions in the Double-A South, will take the field for the 2022 season opener against visiting Montgomery. The centerpiece of the team is expected to be the center fielder, Michael Harris II, Atlanta’s No. 1 prospect per Baseball America. Braves instructor Greg Walker called Harris “a special talent” in an mlb.com story posted Monday, and 2021 M-Braves catcher Shea Langeliers labeled Harris “an unreal athlete” in the same piece. Harris, 6 feet, 195 pounds, hit .294 with seven home runs and 27 steals at High-A Rome last season. A lefty hitter and thrower, he also won a Gold Glove. He was a two-way prospect at Stockbridge (Ga.) High, but the Braves drafted him as a hitter in the third round in 2019, and he has not disappointed. Pearl has likely seen the last of Langeliers, the Braves’ ’21 minor league player of the year, but several other M-Braves who were on the field for the title-clinching victory last September could be back. Among them: sluggers Drew Lugbauer, Greyson Jenista and C.J. Alexander and speedsters Justin Dean and Trey Harris. Other highly rated prospects who could move up from A-ball include outfielder Jesse Franklin V, a former Michigan star who hit .244 with 21 homers, 61 RBIs and 19 bags at Rome, and 6-3 shortstop Vaughn Grissom, who batted .319 with seven homers and 16 steals in A-ball. He played most of the season at Low-A Augusta. The top-rated pitching prospect who might make it to Pearl is Ryan Cusick, a 6-6, 235 right-hander drafted in the first round last summer out of Wake Forest. Pegged as the Braves’ No. 6 prospect by MLB Pipeline, he pitched in six games at Augusta and struck out more than two batters an inning. Joey Estes, the No. 14 prospect, went 3-6 with a 2.91 ERA at Augusta. … April 8 will be here soon. Regardless of what happens with MLB, the M-Braves and Biscuits will hook up at Trustmark Park. Something to look forward to.