Braves’ top prospect Michael Harris impresses in his debut

Atlanta Braves' Michael Harris II records his first major-league hit in the sixth inning. (AP Photo/Bob Andres)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Braves' Michael Harris II records his first major-league hit in the sixth inning. (AP Photo/Bob Andres)

Credit: AP

Michael Harris said the highlight of his major-league debut was soaking all the firsts: the first time he stepped on the field, the first time he wore a Braves jersey with his last name, the first time he came to the plate and had his name announced on the PA system. But in his first at-bat — which came against Marlins ace Sandy Alcántara in the shadows of an afternoon game — Harris said he didn’t play his own style of baseball.

“I really wasn’t nervous,” Harris said. “I was really trying to attack the fastball and wasn’t being disciplined. I had to change that.”

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Harris struck out in four pitches, one of 14 strikeouts that the dominant Alcántara racked up. Afterward, Harris vowed to stay within himself, and, a couple of at-bats later, the strategy worked. His sixth-inning single sent Truist Park’s sell-out crowd Saturday of 40,682 into a frenzy and eventually led to the Braves’ only run in a 4-1 defeat to the Marlins.

Along with highlight plays in center field and displays of speed in the basepaths, Harris teased his potential as an all-around talent and showed why he can make the jump from being the Braves’ top prospect to becoming a difference maker.

“I always try to show off every aspect of my game when I can,” Harris said. “I never try to single out any aspect of my game and try to keep everything sharp.”

Harris made history, becoming the youngest Georgia-born player (21 years and 82 days old) to debut for the Braves in the club’s 56-year stay in Atlanta. He finished the game 1-for-3 with a single, a run and a strikeout, while providing defensive value in center field and allowing Adam Duvall to slide over to play right field.

Manager Brian Snitker expects Harris to be a regular option for the Braves’ lineup and said that having him take over in center can help elevate the club’s defense.

“He had a couple of really nice at-bats,” Snitker said. “Watching him track that ball was pretty good too.”

Harris flashed his speed as well, using a single from designated hitter Ronald Acuña to dash from first base to third. Defensively, his acceleration helped him pull down a couple of key catches, much to the amazement of starter Tucker Davidson.

“It was awesome,” Davidson said. “There was a ball in the gap, I can’t remember who hit it, and I was like, ‘go get it, Mike!’”

“He’s an incredible talent, he’s so fast and such a great athlete.”

Marlins 4, Braves 1

A 2019 third-round pick out of Stockbridge High School, Harris grew up rooting for the Braves and has had dreams of the major leagues for almost all of his life.

Before the game, Harris revealed that one of his fondest memories from watching the Braves was the 2010 debut of another local player, Jason Heyward. The 21-year-old Heyward arrived in the majors with a first-inning, three-run home run.

Harris didn’t clear the fences in his own debut and couldn’t lift the Braves to victory against the Marlins. But the hometown kid made an impression in every facet of the game and showed why he can be a major part of the Braves’ future.

“I felt like I belonged there,” Harris said. “I was just trying to go out there and have fun and compete.”