With a month of regular season baseball left, two players have separated themselves from the pack in the National League Rookie of the Year race … and they both play for the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta is hoping to repeat as World Series Champions and, if they do, Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider will have played a key role in the achievement.
There are some other notable rookies in the NL and honorable mention should go out to position players Brendan Donovan, Lars Nootbaar, Jake McCarthy, and Alek Thomas and pitchers Andre Pallante, Alexis Diaz, Graham Ashcraft, and Nick Lodolo … but none of them have approached the season of Atlanta’s two candidates.
Let’s take a look at the two Atlanta Braves who could win NL Rookie of the Year
Michael Harris II
Harris leads all NL rookies in homers (15), doubles (23), runs scored (59), RBI (50), stolen bases (16), batting average (.309), slugging percentage (.538), fWAR (4.2), and bWAR (4.3), all at the age of 21 and having only played 43 Double-A and zero Triple-A games before his promotion. Defensively, he’s produced five outs above average, good for fourth in the NL among all centerfielders. His durability has also been a factor in an outfield that has lacked health and stability in the corners as he’s started 88 of 89 games since joining the team.
The best may be yet to come for Harris as he’s in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak, posting a .476/.542/.833 line with nine extra-base hits in that span.
In his last start, Strider proved what he was capable of when everything is working, a 16-strikeout, eight-inning outing with no walks and no runs allowed that had everyone in the Braves clubhouse buzzing. It was the fifth time in 17 starts that he struck out at least 11 batters and the 12th time he’s allowed one or fewer runs. For the season, his nine wins, 2.67 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 114.2 innings pitched, 174 strikeouts, 4.2 fWAR, and 3.5 bWAR all lead NL rookie starters by a wide margin. On top of all that, he’s struck out 38.1% of batters, 6.4% more than any pitcher with at least 100 innings thrown. Only four pitchers in the league have punched out more batters than Strider and they’ve all pitched at least 30 more innings than the rookie.
At this point, it is too close to call which of these two will take home the award based on what they’ve done so far. By WAR measurements, they have provided nearly equal value to the Atlanta Braves. If I had to make a prediction right now, I would go with Harris simply because he can play every single day and won’t have the playing time restrictions Strider could face. Strider has already thrown 18.1 more innings than he did last year combined between the minors and Atlanta. With a month to go and the 23-year-old likely to be a key part of the postseason rotation, Strider could receive added rest between starts or be pulled from games early to keep him healthy and strong for October.
Either way, there’s likely to be a Rookie of the Year ceremony at Truist Park sometime soon.
Note: All statistics heading into Monday’s action.