As MLBbro.com predicted a few months ago, Atlanta Braves MLBbro Money Mike Harris II won the NL Rookie of the Year award. If his victory needed any further statistical support, the Atlanta Braves were 22-24 and 7.5 games behind the New York Mets in the NL East prior to Harris making his MLB debut on May 28. In the 116 games after his arrival, the team went a blazing 79-37 and jetted past the Mets to the division title.
This marks the ninth time a Braves player has been honored. Previous winners were Alvin Dark in 1948, Sam Jethroe in 1950, Earl Williams in 1971, Bob Horner in 1978, David Justice in 1990, Rafael Furcal in 2000, Craig Kimbrel in 2011 and Ronald Acuna Jr. in 2018.
Harris and teammate Spencer Strider were named as finalists for the BBWAA’s Rookie of the Year Award for the National League Monday night. Harris told Bally Sports last week at an Atlanta Hawks game that he knew it would come down to he and his teammate Spencer. It is the fourth time that teammates finished 1-2 in National League Rookie voting and the first time since 2011 when the teammates were also from Atlanta: pitcher Craig Kimbrel, the winner, and first baseman Freddie Freeman, the runner-up. The other years were 1957 with Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Jack Sanford and first baseman Ed Bouchee and 1989 with Chicago Cubs outfielders Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith. It has occurred four times in American League Rookie voting.
Money Mike, a product of MLB’s diversity programs (Breakthrough Series), was promoted from Double A in late May and solidified the team’s outfield defense with his play in center field. He surprised a lot of people with his contributions at the plate as well and was one of Atlanta’s most consistent contributors hitting .297/.339/.514 with 19 home runs and a 136 wRC+. He was second on the team in stolen bases with 20 and is 4.8 fWAR total was third behind only Dansby Swanson (6.4) and Austin Riley (5.5).
Harris, the only player named on all the ballots this year, is the ninth NL center fielder honored and the first since Bryce Harper, who played the majority of his games in 2012 at that position. Other winning center fielders were Walton in 1989, Andre Dawson in 1977, Bake McBride in 1974, Bill Virdon in 1955, Wally Moon in 1954, Willie Mays in 1951 and Jethroe in 1950. There have been eight center fielders who won in the AL.
Center fielders won the award in both leagues in the same year for only the second time. The previous year was 2012 with Harper in the NL and Mike Trout in the AL. Harris is now expected to be a huge star from Opening Day in 2023. He’s got an 8-year/$72M contract in tow and is now the face MLB needs to market the game to kids of color in urban areas. And bring Black fans back to Truist Park.