Braves’ Michael Harris named National League Rookie of the Month for June

CINCINNATI – Michael Harris was laying on the couch in the Braves’ clubhouse before Saturday when Max Fried went up and congratulated him.

“For what?” Harris wondered.

Harris looked at the television behind Fried and saw the news: MLB had announced Harris was voted the National League Rookie of the Month for June.

“I’m overfilled with joy,” Harris, who is humble, said after the Braves defeated the Reds, 4-1.

In late May, the Braves called up Harris, their top prospect, because they thought he was ready to contribute. He has exceeded expectations.

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The 21-year-old Harris, a Stockbridge High alum who grew up a Braves fan, hit .347 with a .946 OPS over 27 games in June. He hit two doubles, two triples and four homers, and drove in 16 runs. He stole four bases and scored 18 runs.

Among baseball’s rookies with enough at-bats to qualify, Harris ranked first in batting average, OPS and hits. He was second in slugging percentage and RBIs.

Harris had a .327 batting average over the first 31 games of his career, the highest mark by a Braves hitter through 31 career contests since Jose Constanza (.337) in 2011. Harris notched an eight-game hitting streak during the Braves’ 14-game win streak, and at the time that was the longest active hitting streak by a rookie. Harris was the Braves’ first rookie to put together a hitting streak of at least eight games since Ronald Acuña in August 2018.

Did he expect to have a start like this?

“No, no I didn’t,” Harris said. “I felt like, when I got here, I would’ve had to do a little bit more adjusting than I’ve had to. I’m just glad that I’m kind of doing what I’m doing right now and still getting better as I go. That’s a good feeling. I just want to keep doing it.”

Harris has completely changed the Braves. He gives them a terrific defensive center fielder, which has strengthened their outfield defense. As the lineup’s No. 9 hitter, he has posted a .344 on-base percentage and has been a catalyst for the club. He has all five tools and has displayed them throughout his first month-plus in the majors.

The Braves are 24-8 since Harris debuted. In that time, they went on a 14-game winning streak.

That may not be a complete coincidence.

“Just so comfortable,” fellow rookie Spencer Strider said. “He just comes in and is so confident. He knows exactly what he needs to do to get himself ready. He’s just so naturally gifted. It’s not like he has to do anything crazy anyways. Ever since I first saw him play two years ago now, he’s just a freak athlete, five-tool player.”

“He’s come up and has been impacting (us),” Austin Riley said. “I know when I came up, I was swinging it well and then I went ice cold. Him personally, nothing fazes him. I feel like he’s so mature already and it just allows him to stay even-keeled, and that’s what you need up here because it is a grind.”

The others who received votes for NL Rookie of the Month for June were: Strider, Pirates outfielder Jack Suwinski, Cardinals infielder Brendan Donovan, Cardinals outfielder Juan Yepez, Diamondbacks second baseman Jake Hager, Cubs shortstop Christopher Morel and Cubs pitcher Scott Effross.

Harris grew up watching the Braves. He idolized some of their players and attended lots of their games.

Now he’s putting on a show in their uniform.

“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Harris said. “Definitely being on this team, winning like we are, it’s a great moment. I didn’t expect to be on this team this early in the season, at least, after a World Series title. Just being on this team and helping them win in any way I can is a good feeling.”