ROME, GA — Trey Harris is on fire for the Rome Braves. The 23-year-old outfielder is hitting .358 for Rome, with an outstanding .964 OPS through his first 19 games. He’s hit safely in ten of his last twelve games, with six of those games being multi-hit performances.
There’s more to Harris than a big bat. He has a positive energy that captivates his teammates and everyone at the ballpark, and has a happy disposition that can only be contagious to everyone in the clubhouse. Clearly one of the leaders of this young squad, Harris is proving to be so much more than a “good player”.
So, who is Harris? If he’s not one of your favorite Braves prospects yet, he’s about to become one.
Harris is a hometown hero of sorts. He grew up down the road in Powder Springs, an Atlanta Braves fan of course (note from the author: I had someone I trust very much with his baseball knowledge who watched Harris closely growing up tell me Harris was the best pure hitter he’s ever seen). He turned some well-known hitting skills into a big-time opportunity heading to Missouri for four years of baseball.
“Honestly, it’s crazy how many debates we get in as teammates,” Harris told Talking Chop. “SEC is better, ACC is better. But I take pride playing in the SEC. It’s a big deal and it’s prepared me, playing in front of big crowds against great competition. I faced a bunch of first-round pitchers last year.”
Harris earned All-Freshman honors in his debut and after finding his power stroke in his junior campaign, put it altogether in his senior season, hitting .316 with 11 home runs, 50 RBI, 54 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases. Though he made it look easy, there were definitely a few pitchers he was happy not to have to see again.
“Casey Mize, by far,” Harris said of the toughest pitcher he faced. “Other guys have fastball-curveball, some guys have high velo, but Mize had a splitter and a curveball and could throw 97, it was just crazy how good of a player he was.”
During his time at Missouri, Harris had a dream come true. His Tigers came to SunTrust Park to play the Georgia Bulldogs. He came to the plate with a whole entourage of his local friends and family in attendance and the dream could have been over right there, a perfectly good one at that.
But Harris had a little more in mind. Like smacking the first home run ever hit in SunTrust Park.
“A lot of people don’t know that,” Harris said beaming. “It was amazing. It was one of the few times I actually cried in a moment that I wasn’t losing. I got so excited I cried. My high school coach got to see me play in college for the first time with his own two eyes, there were just so many people there.
“I didn’t know I was going to be drafted by the Braves, so I thought it was the only time I’d ever get to play there. I was just trying to get a hit, never mind a home run.”
Harris did everything right. He played the game hard for four years and looked to have himself positioned for a Day 2 pick. That’s not how the cards fell, however.
“Leaving Mizzou, I thought I was a Day 2, top 10 rounder,” Harris said. “Day 2 goes by and I’m not hearing a thing. Day 3 comes and everybody is rolling, guys I’ve played against, guys I had better stats than, guys I hit home runs off of. I was like, ‘what’s going on?’”
As they say, everything happens for a reason. Though Harris went later than he expected in the 32nd round, as fate would have it, he was coming home.
“Then the Braves called me and asked who was asking about me. I told them they were the only ones. Then the 30th round came around and the [San Diego] Padres and [Tampa Bay] Rays called my coach and I guess when the Braves heard, I got picked.
“It was one of those moments where you’re too happy to even have an expression. You’re just like, ‘I can’t believe that just happened. I’m playing for THE Braves.’ I came to a Rome game when I was ten. I was at SunTrust five days before I got drafted, to be signing a contract there was surreal.”
And then, the battle-tested SEC star remembered what it was like to be a kid again.
“Growing up, Andruw Jones was the guy,” Harris said. “He’s scaling walls and hitting home runs. I had the pleasure of meeting him this spring training. It was one of those moments that you’re just like, ‘dude, that’s Andruw Jones.’ I’m supposed to be a Braves player and act like he’s just somebody but I was like, ‘that’s the man.’
“I got a wave from Bobby Cox once, too. That was dope.”
The professional hitter
There’s no denying Harris’ hit tool. The right-hander is smaller, listed at 5’10”, and stocky, listed at 215, but it’s clearly bulk and muscle. “I’m sneaky athletic,” as Harris puts it. “I’ll sneak up on you and run right past you.”
He has a smooth swing and so far has proven to have little issue barreling up on the baseball.
“If you ask me, there’s more to get,” Harris said. “I think I’m still struggling on pitches that I really want to be able to handle. This offseason I took a lot of time and did it by myself. For the most part, I looked up the best players in The Show and watched what they did to get into the positions to hit.
“If you look at my phone, there’s 1000 videos of five swings. Then I looked, ‘Alright, I need to do this, I need to do that.’ After awhile it felt like mine. I felt like last year, I had gained a swing that I couldn’t make adjustments with. It wasn’t mine. So this offseason, I wanted to feel every part of my swing.”
Where Harris, by his own admission, needs to improve is he defense. Tuesday night in Rome, he seemed to be proving any doubters wrong. He made a diving catch in the outfield that was certainly less that graceful but without a doubt got the out. Despite getting up slowly, Harris returned to the field and gunned down a runner at third just a couple innings later.
“Defense is my biggest work in progress,” Harris said. “Just learning how to play the outfield the right way. I learned it at Mizzou, but metal bats are different than wood bats, so understanding angles and my routes can always be better. I just need to keep growing as a player.”
For Harris the hometown kid with the big smile, baseball is a game that he’s overtly grateful for everyday. For Harris the professional hitter, baseball is an on-going process. There’s not a day that goes by that Harris, clearly a student of the game, doesn’t see an opportunity to do work and get better.
He has to. After all, he has to keep proving all those that past him by on Day 2 wrong.