Braves’ Michael Harris II begins third season. That’s hard for him to believe

Braves center fielder was National League Rookie of the Year in 2022
Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II takes batting practice during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Friday, February, 16, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II takes batting practice during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Friday, February, 16, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

NORTH PORT, Fla. — This will be Michael Harris II’s third major-league season. That he’s a bit flabbergasted.

“That’s kind of crazy to say year three,” he told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “That’s actually kind of crazy. (Braves first baseman Matt) Olson told me I’m a rookie and a vet, so I was happy to be able to be promoted to a vet this soon. Year three already.”

A rookie and a vet, huh? The type of contradiction that somehow makes sense in a baseball context.

“I still look at him as the young guy that just came up,” Olson said. “But he’s got the baseball card to prove he’s not a rookie anymore. He’s an incredible talent, somebody who carries himself the right way and goes out and plays the game the right way. It’s cool to watch him take his strides and grow each year.”

The Braves’ center fielder, Harris has been remarkably consistent during his young career. In the first campaign, Harris won rookie of the year after hitting .297 with an .853 OPS (while providing spectacular defense). Despite a dreadful start to the following season – he missed most of April injured and hit only .167 in May – he wound up hitting .293 with an .808 OPS. From June 1 until season’s end, Harris slashed .326/.352/.535.

“I feel like last year was a better year for me than the rookie year because I learned a lot more,” Harris said.

Overall, he’s hit .295/.334/.494 with 60 doubles, 37 homers and 121 RBIs over two seasons (252 games). These are imperfect comparisons because of quantity and circumstance, but here’s how Harris’ first two seasons compare with those of some other notable center fielders:

Andrew McCutchen: .286/.365/.459 with 61 doubles, 28 homers, 110 RBIs (262 games).

Julio Rodriguez: .279/.338/.495 with 62 doubles, 60 homers, 178 RBIs (287 games).

Mike Trout: .307/.379/.532 with 33 doubles, 35 homers, 99 RBIs (179 games).

Jacoby Ellsbury: .293/.346/.413 with 29 doubles, 12 homers, 65 RBIs (178 games).

Mookie Betts: .291/.348/.471 with 54 doubles, 23 homers, 95 RBIs (197 games).

Christian Yelich (played mostly left field): .285/.365/.400 with 42 doubles, 13 homers, 70 RBIs (206 games).

There’s a reason the Braves signed Harris long-term about as quickly as they could (for eight years, $72 million). He embodies the organization’s values, as a player and teammate. Harris has a steady bat and provides exceptional center-field defense. His even-keel demeanor has fit the clubhouse from day one.

“He’s one of the best center fielders in baseball, and he knows it,” Olson said. “And he carries himself that way. Not in a negative way. Not in a cocky or egotistical way. But he has that quiet confidence about himself, which makes him so good.”

Third baseman Austin Riley, another mainstay inked to a long-term deal, added: “It’s crazy (that this is Harris’ third season). “He’s obviously really talented, and I feel like he’s still learning himself as a player, as a person. He’s done some crazy things, and I think he can get better. There’s a lot more in the tank for him. It’s been really cool to watch.”

Perhaps Harris’ first All-Star nod will be within reach in 2024. He sometimes feels undervalued on the national level, at least in part because he’s surrounded by similar talents. But he already has established himself as a premier outfielder who’s still years from his prime.

So begins his third season.

“I’ve always heard players say it moves quick, so enjoy it,” Harris said. “I’m seeing that now. I feel like I was just called up last year, and we’re already through two seasons. So definitely going to try to cherish every moment, every season.

“I don’t feel any different. … Time really does move fast, and you don’t really notice it until, I guess, year three.”