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Late Draft pick continues to defy odds in the AFL

Harris among eight Braves in the Arizona Fall League
@JonathanMayo
September 23, 2019

Trey Harris always believed he could play. The challenge in the past has been finding someone who felt the same way. While he hit just .268 as a junior at Missouri, the Powder Springs, Ga., native did hit a dozen home runs at an SEC school. But his phone never

Trey Harris always believed he could play. The challenge in the past has been finding someone who felt the same way.

While he hit just .268 as a junior at Missouri, the Powder Springs, Ga., native did hit a dozen home runs at an SEC school. But his phone never rang in the 2017 Draft, so he headed back to school for his senior season. After a .930 OPS as a senior, his hometown team took him in the 32nd round and signed him for $10,000. All he wanted was a chance to prove himself and the Braves gave him that, even if he had to start in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League playing against teenagers.

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Things started taking off from there. The 5-foot-8 outfielder made it to Class A Rome that first summer and went back to full-season ball to start his next campaign. He hit across three levels, finishing in Double-A, and now the No. 18 prospect in the system is getting more swings in the Arizona Fall League.

“Justin Dean, being one of my best friends, we talk about it all the time,” Harris said of Dean, who is the organization’s No. 23 prospect and is another late-round 2018 MLB Draft find in the AFL. “Last year, we were just happy to get to Rome and be in Low A. We actually made it to affiliate ball. To have the wave we’ve had and what I’ve been doing this year, I just try to pinch myself every now and again and make sure I’m not dreaming.”

Across three levels, Harris finished with a .323/.389/.498 line. He homered in his first AFL game with the Scottsdale Scorpions, an early sign that he has no plans of letting up any time soon. He’s more than excited to be part of this year’s Fall League, even if it was hard to break the news to friends and family back home.

“With baseball, everything seems to happen last-minute, so having to tell some people close to me that I wasn’t going to be able to be home right away was an adjustment,” Harris said. “But we’re all riding the wave and it’s really nice that your employer likes you. Everyone loves that their boss thinks highly of them. I’m just blessed and happy.”

And he’s taking nothing for granted. He understands that as an undersized college senior taken very late in the Draft, he’s going to have to keep proving himself at every level. Clearly self-motivated, he’s using the AFL invite as another push for him to defy the odds and get to Atlanta.

“More than anything, being invited to the Fall League has made me want to grind way harder in the offseason. I think there’s another level I want to get to mentally and physically and I think the success has shown me that if you do work hard, it will repay you,” Harris said. “I think a lot of big people’s fears are that if they work hard, they’ll fail. But I worked my butt off and I got a great reward and I’m just trying to take it to the next level.”

Braves hitters in the Fall League

Greyson Jenista, 1B/OF (Braves' No. 11 prospect): The Braves’ second-round pick in the 2018 Draft, Jenista came out of Wichita State and made it to Double-A in his first full season, though he finished with a .233/.318/.349 line with 145 strikeouts in 130 games. He’s working on refining his approach while playing first base (to get him at-bats, it’s not a permanent move) for Scottsdale.

Justin Dean, OF (No. 23): A Division II product taken in the 17th round of the 2018 Draft, Dean didn’t have quite as much success as Harris did in his first full season, but he was a South Atlantic League postseason All-Star after a .284/.386/.431 season with a league-leading 47 steals. The AFL should provide a good challenge for the Lenoir-Rhyne University product.

Garrison Schwartz, OF: Schwartz was a 16th-round pick in the 2017 Draft out of Grand Canyon. While he did briefly touch Double-A in 2019, the left-hander has struggled to hit consistently. He spent a month and a half on the injured list and got 200 at-bats, finishing with a .195/.283/.260 line, mostly in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.

Braves pitchers in the Fall League

Daysbel Hernandez, RHP (No. 20): A Cuban defector who signed for $190,000 in September of 2017, Hernandez has the chance to be a two-pitch power reliever. He’s coming off a solid season in the FSL, where he finished with a 1.71 ERA, .184 batting average against and a 12.0 K/9. He started to find the strike zone a bit more consistently in 2019 and will continue to work on his control and command in Arizona.

Connor Johnstone, RHP: A 21st-round pick out of Wake Forest in 2017, Johnstone made a double-jump from the Class A Advanced Florida State League up to Triple-A in 2019, but settled in and spent most of the year with Double-A Mississippi. While he pitched in relief most of the year, he made five starts at the end of the season with solid results. The sub six-footer will continue to get starts in the AFL.

Bradley Roney, RHP: It’s been a long and windy road for Roney, who was an eighth-round pick out of Southern Miss back in 2014. The career reliever missed most of the 2017 season and all of 2018 with injuries. He finally returned in May 2019 and quickly pitched his way to Double-A, finishing with a combined 1.94 ERA and .186 BAA with a 13.0 K/9.

Brandon White, RHP: Another career reliever, White was a 12th-round pick out of Division II Lander University in 2016. He’s collected 32 Minor League saves to date and spent most of 2019 in the Florida State League, where he posted a 1.35 ERA and a 10.3 K/9 rate. He also walked 4.6 per nine, so he’ll work in his command during his time in Arizona.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly MLB Pipeline Podcast.