“You could see he was like the star,” Harris said.
Now, Harris and Rodríguez are two of the game’s top center fielders – as rookies. The pair could be the National League and American League Rookie of the Year winners after this season. They are talented players as is, but to be doing this as rookies? Unbelievable.
Harris and Rodríguez debuted around a month-and-a-half apart, with Rodríguez breaking camp with the Mariners and the Braves calling up Harris in late May. Harris signed a long-term extension about two weeks before Rodríguez received one from the Mariners. Their teams are positioned to make the postseason, with them playing huge roles. Both are 21 years old.
They share a common respect for one another.
“You see the deal he got,” Harris said of Rodríguez’s contract, which includes $210 million guaranteed and could max out as the most lucrative in MLB history at $470 million. “That shows the kind of player he is.”
“He’s a really good player,” Rodríguez said of Harris on Friday, adding that he was excited to watch the Braves’ young center fielder play this weekend.
These two rookies are competitors this weekend, but they lead a charge together: As the game progresses, with some of its stars aging, Harris and Rodríguez are prepared to lead the youth movement. This sport boasts Mike Trout and Mookie Betts and Bryce Harper and more, but eventually they will retire. Eventually, Harris and Rodríguez will be among the stars of the next generation.
“It really shows what the future can be,” Harris said. “Just us two, and there’s way more in the minors, like hidden gems, that can have the same impact, if not better, I believe. If they get their chance, they can show a lot of the fans, and they can change a lot of organizations, honestly.”
“I feel like there’s a lot of young talent,” Rodríguez said. “I feel like everybody can see that right now because there’s a lot of young players impacting the game, helping their team in their chase for getting to the playoffs. There’s a lot of young players impacting the game right now.”
Entering Saturday, Harris led all NL rookies with a .312 batting average, an .897 OPS, 16 home runs, 52 RBIs and 16 stolen bases. Yes, he ranks first in all of those categories. He has completely changed the Braves, giving them a dynamic center fielder who impacts the game in many ways.
The Braves began rolling at the beginning of June. It is no coincidence that they called up Harris days before this run.
“Obviously, he’s doing a great job,” Rodríguez said. “I’m excited to see another young player that comes up to the majors and is able to actually perform, and just play and have fun. It’s always good. I feel like we have a really good group coming up this year all over the place, all over the majors. It’s really exciting to see where the young group of players is going to. I feel like the future is in really good hands with us.”
Before Saturday’s game, Rodríguez ranked first among AL rookies with an .811 OPS. He also ranked first in home runs (23), while having the second-most RBIs (68) and stolen bases (24).
“All-around player,” Harris said. “It’s not just one specific thing he can do or one big weakness. He can do pretty much anything.”
The Braves and Mariners are an intriguing matchup. Both feature talented lineups, and both possess good pitching staffs. You will probably see these teams playing in the postseason, and if that happens, they could meet in the World Series.
These clubs also have talented center fielders who could be stars in the game for a long time. Not only are they good, but they are fun to watch. They are fan-favorites, and baseball is better because of them.
“I feel like both of us, we didn’t come into the year thinking, ‘What kind of deal can I get?’” Harris said. “It’s just, ‘What can I do to help my team win as much as possible and have fun at the same time doing it?’”
Power from d’Arnaud, Contreras
Entering Saturday, catchers Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras each had 17 home runs.
This is the second time in franchise history that two players with at least half of their games at catcher hit 17 home runs for the team. In 1965, Joe Torre homered 27 times and Gene Oliver homered 21 times for the Milwaukee Braves.
“It’s awesome,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s just good to have two catchers – I don’t mind playing either of them. To have two very productive guys like that is a plus. You just don’t have that all the time. Really, they’re two every-day guys that you’re splitting time with.”
As a veteran and one of the team’s leaders, d’Arnaud’s impact stretches further than the homers he has hit.
“He brings a lot of calmness and credibility,” Snitker said. “We lost him for 100 games last year, and you didn’t realize how much he meant until he comes back. I’m a lot more calm when he’s back there, I know that. I know the pitchers, they trust him, they know that he’s invested in them and what he does, and the studying and the time he puts in, the game-planning.”
Harris is on a hot streak
Harris entered Saturday with a 15-game hit streak. It is the best of his career and marked the longest active hit streak in baseball.
His run, the longest by an NL rookie this season, trails only an 18-game streak from Cleveland’s Steven Kwan for the longest streak from a rookie this season.
Harris’ streak is the longest for a Braves rookie since Freddie Freeman hit in 20 consecutive games in 2011.