June 21, 2024

Michael Harris II made quite the entrance into Braves Spring Training, blasting a ball well beyond the right field fence to kick off the action.

Michael Harris often seems to fly under the radar when discussions turn to the top young talents in baseball. Perhaps it’s due to his absence from All-Star Games, or maybe it’s because he shares the spotlight with a team packed with All-Stars. Nonetheless, as he enters his age-23 season, Harris is a burgeoning superstar, and 2024 could very well be the year he grabs the attention of the entire league.

In roughly a season-and-a-half’s worth of games, Harris has amassed nearly 9.0 fWAR before turning 23, a level of production typically associated with All-Stars. His excellence extends across all aspects of the game—he’s maintained a batting average near .300, coupled with Gold Glove-worthy defensive skills, and possesses a rare blend of power and speed, making him a genuine 30/30 threat each season.

Despite capturing NL Rookie of the Year honors, Michael Harris faced a rough start last year. Injuries sidelined him, and by June 6th, his batting average stood at just .163 with a .490 OPS. Many 22-year-olds might have begun to doubt their abilities in such circumstances. Baseball’s unpredictability is evident; numerous players have burst onto the scene, only to fade into obscurity at the first sign of prolonged adversity.

What sets Michael Harris apart is his remarkable response to adversity. Despite facing injuries and struggles, he embarked on one of the most impressive stretches of his young career. From June 7th until the season’s end, he topped all major-league centerfielders in batting average (.335), OPS (.912), and extra-base hits (48), while ranking second in WAR (4.3).

Reflecting on this experience, Harris expressed a newfound confidence, acknowledging the challenges he overcame. In an interview with Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, he remarked, “It gives me a lot (of confidence), because I don’t think a lot of people could get out of that, and I didn’t think I could either.” He went on to emphasize the growth he experienced, stating, “To be able to do that and get up to where my numbers were the year before, it was pretty, I guess, impressive for me. I feel like last year was a better year for me than the rookie year because I learned a lot more and dug myself out of a deep hole, and still got up to where a lot of people don’t get. It was pretty impressive. Hopefully I don’t have to start off like that again. Hopefully I can just be that second guy throughout the whole season this year.”

In a sport like baseball, where confidence often plays a pivotal role in sustained success, combining it with athletic ability can produce a player like Michael Harris II, a soon-to-be 23-year-old phenom poised for superstardom.

Looking back just a year ago, we witnessed how Ronald Acuña Jr. flourished once the game began to slow down for him. While Acuña and Harris may not share identical playing styles, both are five-tool athletes. Don’t be surprised if a similar progression occurs with Harris in the near future. When that happens, the Braves could find themselves with yet another NL MVP candidate on their roster.

 Can Michael Harris take the next step to superstardom?

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