Michael Harris II (ATL): 4-4, 2B, HR, 3 R, 4 RBI.
Moments before the rain clouds above Truist Park opened with a deluge, the youngest player in the major leagues made the crowd bellow with a blast that traveled 435 feet to the second deck in right. It put the exclamation mark on what was a sublime night for Atlanta’s latest star. This was just one night after Spencer Strider stacked up twelve punchouts. Can you feel the Mets bracing themselves?
In an earlier Batter’s Box, I remember writing that I wasn’t sure if his power would stick. Can I go back and change my answer? The rise of Michael Harris II is an exceptional one considering that most teams liked him as a pitcher out of high school. And that was all of three years ago. He made his MLB debut after just 43 games in Double-A. The lefty has already taken well to a change in his stance that involved dropping his hands. And now, if he qualified, his .379 wOBA would be second among NL outfielders; Mookie Betts is first at .384. Add in his value in the field and on the bases, and you’ll find you don’t have to squint too hard in your search for a ROTY candidate.
If it’s not apparent already, I’ll clarify now that I have not the slightest clue what to expect from the rookie. The Bat X has him at five home runs, and seven steals the rest of the way. That seems light to me. But then again, that’s me trying to catch my breath after watching that home run last night. Who knows how the second half plays out. One thing is for certain; he has quickly become one of the game’s most exciting young talents with a potential that few could dream of. For now, we will let the force of imagination sustain our enthusiasm.
Let’s see how the other hitters did Friday:
Jonathan Villar (LAA): 1-5, R.
The Angels signed Villar last Saturday, and he has since been hitting leadoff. He hasn’t been good with, you know, the Cubs cutting him and all. But he’s also a guy who hit 18 home runs and swiped 14 for the Mets last year in 505 PA. Who knows? Maybe he comes alive hitting in front of Mike Trout, who stole a base last night and is now tied with Albert Pujols, among many others, with one.
Nick Senzel (CIN): 2-3, 2B.
Your obligatory post, post, post-hype sleeper reminder. Senzel came into last night’s game slashing .295/ .350/ .366 with five steals over his last 32 games. Two more hits boosted his average to .258, although it hasn’t come with any power; so far just a .645 OPS.
Josh Smith (TEX): 1-4, R, RBI.
Smith hasn’t done a whole lot, but he’s settled in as the Rangers’ leadoff hitter, at least for now. He did steal eight bases in 44 games with Triple-A Round Rock, along with a .370 OBP. But that came with a .136 ISO, so not much power. Corey Seager had the big night for the Rangers with home run number 17, his second in three nights. The former Dodger is hitting just .235, but there should be better days ahead considering his .391 xwOBA and .296 xBA.
Bryan De La Cruz (MIA): 3-3, 3 2B, R, RBI, BB.
De La Cruz might have a little bit of an opportunity with the injury to Jorge Soler. The third double came with one gone in the seventh on a 3-2 curveball that chased Chris Bassitt from the game. He also hit home runs on July 4th and 5th. Although he hasn’t done much so far with a career 101 wRC+ across 384 PA, he might be worth keeping an eye on considering his .358 xwOBA and .290 xBA so far this year. Also, for the Marlins, Garrett Cooper banged out his seventh home run of the season.
Josh Donaldson (NYY): 1-4, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
Is it time to party like it’s 2015 again? Maybe not, but that’s now three dingers in three games for Donaldson. This one came on a 2-1 changeup down broadway from Connor Seabold. Before the three home runs, the former Jay had been hitting .200 with a .578 OPS in 25 games since June 3rd. The Yankees teed off at Fenway, including the mustachioed man of mystery Matt Carpenter, who continued his revival tour with his ninth and is now rocking a 1.220 OPS in 70 PA. Who saw this coming? He started last night in left field.
Josh Rojas (ARI): 2-3, 2B, HR, R, 3 RBI, BB, SB.
Rojas ambushed the third pitch of the night from Chad Kuhl for a home run to right, his fifth of the year. An oblique strain caused him to miss just about the first month of the season. So far in 216 PA, he’s hitting .275 with a .766 OPS along with seven steals. From a fantasy angle, the best thing about Rojas is his positional versatility; he’s eligible at 2B, 3B, SS, and OF on Yahoo. However, this year he’s started 51 games at 3B and one at DH.
Whit Merrifield (KC): 3-4, HR, R, 2 RBI.
Merrifield’s fifth of the year, a two-run shot to left off Eli Morgan, was a clutch one as it tied the game in the eighth. Nice catch in the crowd, too, by an excited Royals fan who just so happened to be wearing his jersey. In eight games in July, the Royals’ leadoff man is hitting .364 with two home runs and three steals. Bobby Witt Jr. made his return for the Royals after getting beaned on the hand a couple of nights ago, and he stole his 13th base of the year.
Kris Bryant (COL): 3-4, 2B, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI, BB.
Bryant victimized Zac Gallen in his first at-bat by lifting a 95 MPH fastball over the wall in left for his second of the year before tagging reliever Kyle Nelson in the seventh for his second of the night. Injuries have limited the Rockies’ big free agent to just 116 PA. He’s hitting .306, but it’s come with very little power; just three home runs and a .155 ISO, which would be a career-low if you ignore the weird 2020 season where he posted a .145 ISO in 34 games. Although maybe it all just simply sets the stage for him as a potentially decent buy-low; you have to figure there will be better days ahead at Coors Field.
Alec Bohm (PHI): 2-3, 2 HR, 2 R, 2 RBI.
Bohm was responsible for the only scoring of the game, both dingers coming off hanging yackers from Adam Wainwright. As someone who has a thing for post-hype players, I want to like Bohm. But I’m torn. Here we are at the halfway point, and he really hasn’t been all that exciting with six home runs, albeit with a decent .269 average. His underlying numbers indicate there might be better things ahead; a .347 xwOBA and .297 xBA. I do think he has substantially more raw power than he has let on so far, and the two home runs show you a glimmer of that. But he might need another offseason to really figure out how to tap into it more often.
Harold Ramírez (TB): 1-3, BB.
Nothing too exciting from Harold the Barrel. But just a reminder that he’s settled in as one of the Rays’ better hitters of late and is slashing .368/ .421/ .505 with two home runs and two steals in 30 games since June 1st.
Rob Refsnyder (BOS): 4-5, 2B, 2 R.
I don’t think Refsnyder becomes a thing himself. But he could be doing just enough to be a stick in the mud if you were hoping for Jarren Duran the rest of the way. The former Yankee is hitting well and is out of minor league options, so Duran could be the odd man out once Kiké Hernández, who started a rehab assignment on Friday, returns. Also, for the Red Sox, J.D. Martinez picked up three more hits. But where has the power gone?! He’s stuck on eight home runs at the halfway mark. Ignoring 2020, he’s on pace for his lowest home run output since way back in 2014, when he belted 23 during his breakout year with the Tigers.
Luis Arraez (MIN): 1-4, 2B, R, BB.
With the league batting average at .242, Arraez is the hero we all need. Also, who had him in the top 20 in OPS among qualifiers? His .880 is just behind Austin Riley and Pete Alonso. One of these is not like the other.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)