Top Braves prospect Michael Harris has hot start to the season

Braves outfielder Michael Harris takes batting practice on the first day of Braves minor league spring training camp Sunday, March 6, 2022, in North Port.  “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Braves outfielder Michael Harris takes batting practice on the first day of Braves minor league spring training camp Sunday, March 6, 2022, in North Port. “Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com”`

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Ben Sestanovich, the Braves’ assistant general manager of player development, recently visited Double-A Mississippi. In talking to the staff there, he heard about a part of Michael Harris that has stood out: The top prospect is always consistent.

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“He shows up as the same guy every day,” Sestanovich said over the phone Tuesday. “He’s just very even-keeled. We’ve always known that, but that’s certainly really stuck out here to start the year.”

Harris is off to a tremendous start in 2022. In 113 at-bats entering Tuesday, Harris had hit .319 with a .918 on-base plus slugging percentage. He had hit four home runs while driving in 20 of them and stealing 10 bases. He took a 14-game hitting streak into Tuesday.

This has begged the question: How much longer will he be in Double-A?

It’s difficult to tell, but know this about the Braves: They treat all minor leaguers as individuals. They don’t have a set number of at-bats they would like someone to collect at any level versus another. Each situation is fluid, and each player has a different plan than his peers.

Take Spencer Strider, for example. He went from Low-A to the majors last season, and broke camp with the big club this year. No one planned that.

When thinking about players’ futures, the Braves go day by day and week by week. They try to make the best decisions for each individual player.

This includes Harris, who continues to turn heads. MLB Pipeline lists the outfielder as the Braves’ top prospect.

“He’s an electric,” said Angel Flores, Double-A Mississippi’s acting manager. “He’s a very exciting player. His at-bats, the way that he plays, he’s a very, very fun guy to watch.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker has said many times that Double-A prospects are candidates to help the big club. From the outside, this seems unlikely with Harris because the Braves don’t have a need pressing enough to rush their top prospect. We could see Harris at Triple-A Gwinnett in the near future if he continues to perform like this.

Last season, Harris hit .294 with a .798 OPS over 101 games at High-A Rome. He stole 27 bases in 31 opportunities. He posted a .436 slugging percentage, a number that looks better this season (.539).

“Michael’s always hit the ball very hard, so I think it’s just a matter of gaining experience and sort of picking his spots to drive the ball,” Sestanovich said. “You’re seeing some of that hard contact start to show up in the slugging percentage. I don’t think we’ve ever had concerns about his ability to damage the ball.”

Harris has started the 2022 season on a tear. The talent is obvious.

He is expected to someday impact the big club. That’s hardly a question.

“A guy like that, with that potential, it’s when it’s going to happen,” Flores said. “It’s not so much if it’s going to happen or not – it’s just when it’s going to happen. I think he’s made for it.

“It’s just a matter of getting that call, that’s all.”

Matzek working to fix ‘bad habits’ with mechanics

Tyler Matzek said he’s trying to make some adjustments to fix some “bad habits” with his mechanics. He has a 5.59 ERA through 9-2/3 innings and has struggled recently, as he’s allowed five earned runs over his past three innings.

Matzek said he has been driving with his left leg instead of rotating through with his hips, and he’s not creating enough shoulder-hip separation. Instead, he’s extending with his left glute to try to prevent rotation in his back.

But what does this all mean?

In simpler terms, he said he’s not rotating his hips and isn’t using the big muscles in the middle of his body with his hips, which is where power is generated. Thus, he’s utilizing different parts of his body to create velocity and throw a decent pitch.

“It’s just training the mind that this is how you’re supposed to move,” Matzek said. “It’s more of like a nervous-system issue where I’ve got to tell my brain to rotate this at this time. I’ve just been doing it wrong or not to the optimal way for the last little while, and now it’s just about training the mind, ‘Hey, this is how it’s supposed to feel, this is how we do it.’ The mind starts to remember, ‘Oh, yeah, this is how it’s supposed to be done, and it’ll come back pretty quick.”

He also said: “It’s close, and I’m starting to feel it. It’s definitely getting in the right direction. But yeah, it’s just a work in progress.”

Piña undergoes MRI

Manny Piña said he underwent an MRI on his left wrist Monday. He expected to hear the results sometime Tuesday.

The Braves expect to release an update in the next day or so.

Piña on Friday swung at 70% in the batting cage. It still bothered him, which is why he received an MRI.

Piña has been on the injured list with left wrist inflammation since April 25.

Woods experiencing ankle discomfort

Right-hander William Woods, who recently made two appearances with the big club, was removed from Friday’s Triple-A game after throwing two pitches in the eighth inning.

He felt discomfort in his left ankle and is listed as day to day.

Woods recently tossed two scoreless innings for the Braves.

Ozuna struggling

Marcell Ozuna’s last multi-hit game came April 28. Since then, he’s 4-for-39 with 10 strikeouts, three walks and no extra-base hits.

“He knows what he wants to do. Knowing what you want to do when you get in that box and getting the outcomes, that’s why this sport is so hard,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s why it’s so tough to be a really good hitter like he has his whole career. That’s what I told him, like, “dude, you’ve got a baseball card.” He’s gonna hit. He’s going through a stretch now where he doesn’t like where he’s at, but it’s not for a lack of work. Eventually, he’ll get it going.”

How to watch Braves games on Apple TV+, Peacock

Braves fans will have a different viewing experience for the team’s games against the Padres on Friday and Sunday.

Friday’s game is on Apple TV+. It’s free to watch, no subscription is necessary, and fans can access this game in multiple ways.

You can launch the Apple TV app and select the game directly from there. You can go to the MLB.TV ap and  tap on Apple TV+. You can also visit https://tv.apple.com/ and log in with or create an Apple ID.

Sunday’s game is on Peacock. Fans can access it from the MLB.TV app or the Peacock app. You can also visit peacocktv.com/sports/mlb.