Braves prospect Harris gets high praise

July 8th, 2021

ATLANTA -- Count Andruw Jones among those who are looking forward to getting their first look at Braves prospect Michael Harris II in the 2021 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday afternoon.  

With his role as a special assistant to the baseball operations department, Jones works with many of the Braves’ top outfield prospects, when necessary. But because he didn’t attend Spring Training this year, he hasn’t yet had a face-to-face look at Harris, whose prospect value has soared since he participated in his first big league camp this year. 

So, while serving as the National League’s hitting coach for the Futures Game on Sunday, Jones will get his first chance to meet and work with the 20-year-old Harris, who seems primed to become Atlanta’s next great outfielder within the near future. He currently ranks as the Braves’ No. 9 prospect via MLB Pipeline.

“I saw some video of him and I hear about him a lot,” Jones said. “A lot of agents I know went and looked at him and said he’s a very special kid. When I talked to Chipper [Jones] about him, he said he’s like Ronald [Acuña] Jr. on the left side.” 

That’s high praise for any young player, especially one who had played just 53 games above the high school level before this year. The suburban-Atlanta resident spent last summer working out with players primarily older and more experienced than him.  

But he handled himself admirably and wasn’t bothered by the Braves’ decision to elevate him to High A Rome this year. Entering Thursday, he had hit .318 with five homers and a .817 OPS.

Harris was taken by the Braves out of Stockbridge High School in the third round of the 2019 MLB Draft. His prospect growth will be influenced by his attempt to prove more successful against offspeed and breaking pitches. 

“I haven’t gone to the Minor Leagues to see him yet, because he’s doing well, so I don’t need to go see him,” Jones said. 

The Braves’ other representative at this year’s Futures Game will be Drew Waters, who was hoping to become a part of Atlanta’s outfield trio by now. Waters’ rise toward the Majors has been halted by the struggles he has had while hitting .234 with four homers and a .696 OPS over 43 games with Gwinnett this year. 

“He’s got the tools,” Jones said. “He’s just hard on himself and he talks too much. He just needs to be quiet and listen and don’t be too hard on himself. I notice sometimes you want to be hard on yourself because you expect to be than your performance right now. But struggling is part of learning. You need to learn from it right now and make your adjustments.”

Waters seemed to be finding a groove when he went 7-for-10 with three homers against the Nashville Sounds on May 18 and 19. But the 22-year-old switch-hitter has hit .198 with .577 OPS while striking out in 34.8 percent of the 141 plate appearances that have followed.  

“He’s got good bat speed and he’s got some pop from both sides of the plate,” Jones said. “He’s a good outfielder too. So, it’s just a matter of time.”