After exchanging pleasantries with Monte Harrison at Marlins FanFest earlier this month and asking about his offseason, I wanted to test his memory. Being a good sport about it, he decided to play along. I mentioned a video that was tweeted out over a year ago, showing his character in MLB The Show getting his first major league hit.
Harrison immediately smiled, laughed, and exclaimed, “a double down the left field line…against Philly, right?”
Harrison’s memory is good; his passion for baseball is even better.
No one doubts that there are elements of his game to improve. But gifted with the loudest tools of any Marlins prospect, a bit more development in the batter’s box can unlock a legitimate star.
How did he get here? Acquired via trade from the Milwaukee Brewers on January 25, 2018.
2018 MiLB Stats: .240/.316/.399, 19 HR, 48 RBI, 28 SB in 136 G
Harrison is widely regarded as one of the organization’s Top 5 prospects. The chief concerns are his elevated strikeout rate—36.9 K% in 2018, worst among all Southern League qualifiers—and his inability to make consistent contact. The 23-year-old’s off-the-charts athleticism is only half of the picture.
Thankfully, Harrison has taken steps since the end of the minor league season to improve his overall approach and contact rate at the plate. Consider what we saw during his time in the Arizona Fall League (AFL). By limiting his leg kick, creating more core-balanced control at the plate, and isolating his pre-swing bat movement, the hope is that his results will improve.
The early returns in the AFL were promising, flirting with the league batting line before cooling down to .290/.383/.348. His slash gives us a sneak peek at what changing mechanics can yield when done correctly. His contact rate and on-base percentage significantly increased, but his ability to produce pop was limited.
MIA Marlins OF Monte Harrison - Wide base stance, removed leg kick at some point in 2018. Swing now more contact-oriented. Harrison elite athlete with immense upper body strength. Able to generate power with little lower body use. Chance for better contact rates with new swing pic.twitter.com/dZdezfK8v3— Prospects Live (@ProspectsLive) October 27, 2018
For many, the immediate decrease in power may be a cause for concern, but not for Harrison. When you own the type of raw power that he has, the expectation is that the pop will translate as he learns to repeat his mechanics. First, you master the change in mechanics, and then you calibrate the launch angle for extra-base hits. Scouts seem to have confidence that Harrison can accomplish both.
The context for this adjustment matters, too. Monte Harrison came to Miami with a desire to change, not the other way around. Prospects who have had the level of success Harrison enjoyed earlier in his career do not typically take the initiative and ask, “What do I need to do to improve?”
The former Top 100 prospect saw that something was wrong, even in a season where he ranked among the organization leaders in homers and stolen bases. That willingness to keep working should serve him well moving forward.
Harrison enters 2019 Spring Training with his first true competition and chance of making the big league ballclub. Many would consider his ETA to be mid-2019 or Opening Day 2020, but already with a spot on the Marlins 40-man roster, his path to a call-up is very direct. He intends to make any decision to keep him in the minors a tough one.
Most likely, look for Harrison to be assigned to Triple-A New Orleans. Before unleashing him on Little Havana, the Marlins must consider their outfield alternatives, realistic window of contention, his raw production and peripheral stats (strikeout/contact rates), and the benefits of service time manipulation. Regardless, his desire and passion for the game work in his favor.
Monte Harrison is a critical part of the future. Miami fans should get to know him sooner rather than later.