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Why Braves’ Michael Harris II deserved NL Rookie of the Year honors over teammate Spencer Strider

Why Braves' Michael Harris II deserved NL Rookie of the Year honors over teammate Spencer Strider

Hello all. I come to you from the past. The recent past, that is. I’m writing this on Oct. 5. For you, it is Nov. 14, the day that the results of the MLB Rookie of the Year voting are revealed. Hopefully you just witnessed a wild and memorable October and November with the 2022 MLB playoffs. You know who the champion is and I don’t. I’m so jealous. 

Speaking of jealousy, I was always jealous of awards and Hall of Fame voters growing up. I try to never shake that feeling, because now that I have the privilege, I take it incredibly seriously. The players deserve it, the fans deserve it and, frankly, with this award, the name demands it. 

It is the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award. And as a voter for the NL Rookie of the Year honors, I’ll be damned if I’m going to vote on something with Jackie Robinson’s name on it and not do my homework. 

Below is an explanation of my ballot, which features two Braves at the top in Michael Harris II (who won the award on Monday night) and Spencer Strider.

Michael Harris

The 21-year-old spent 2021 in High-A after being a third-round pick out of high school in 2019. He started this season in Double-A. The Braves promoted him to the majors — skipping Triple-A — as they dealt with some early-season outfield woes. Among them were Ronald Acuña Jr. still recovering from his torn ACL last season and a need to shore up the defense. 

Harris more than fit the bill. He played exceptional defense in center field. He rated out well in every advanced metric, sitting at the 93rd percentile in outs above average and 86th percentile in outfielder jump. He had nine defensive runs saved and 1.2 defensive WAR. 

As a bit of a bonus, his bat didn’t really need much time to come around, either. In 114 games (441 plate appearances), Harris hit .297/.339/.514 when the league average slash line is .243/.311/.395. He posted a 134 OPS+ and 136 wRC+. 

Even in just over 2/3 of a full season, Harris had 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 64 RBI, 75 runs and 20 steals in 22 chances. He posted 5.2 WAR on Baseball-Reference and 4.8 on Fangraphs. If you extrapolated his WAR out to a full season of work, he’d be at roughly 7.4. For those less familiar, a general guideline on WAR is that 2-plus is a regular starter, 5-plus is All-Star level and 8-plus is MVP level. 

Simply, this was a rock-star all-around performance from a player who didn’t have a…

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