In 2018, his first season with the Marlins, the organization’s new top prospect Monte Harrison played to the tune of a famous Billy Joel song: he went to extremes. Too high and too low, there was no in between as the 23-year-old struck out 215 times, the most in all of AA and at a 37% rate, and walked just 44 times at a 7.5% pace. His excellent raw talent and power potential allowed Harrison to swat 19 homers, a career high and fourth most in the Southern League. However, if Harrison hoped to match and/or better that number when he arrived in The Show, he had some adjustments to make heading into his second Arizona Fall League campaign.
It is undeniable: Monte Harrison has always owned many plus-plus offensive tools. With great overall strength stemming from his 6’3”, 220 pound frame, Harrison uses an advantageous vertical path in his hands and wrists during his load leading up to the execution of his superb bat speed which gives him exceptional leverage. His menacing physicality and good upper half mechanics give him a figurative leg up on his opposition before a pitch is thrown. However, this past season, not long after an opposing pitcher came set, Harrison had too much of a leg up — literally.
Harrison had been trading attempting to recognize pitches for trying to time a pitcher’s motion. Through his aforementioned fantastic core strength, good hands and 60-grade power tool that still has room to grow, Harrison was been able to exhibit fence-clearing power, but that success had been had nearly exclusively in either obvious fastball counts or on mistake pitches that floated into his wheelhouse. The habit that Harrison formed disallowed him from staying back and led to off-balance long hacks that expanded the zone. This was the main culprit feeding Harrison’s gargantuan strikeout rate. For that reason, Harrison’s hit tool is currently capped at 45.
After this fall though, that number will undoubtedly rise.
“He did have the high leg kick when he got here,” Salt River Rafters Head Coach Tommy Watkins corroborated. “Since then, he’s cut it down a bit and he’s been having good ABs.”
Here are some of the ABs Watkins speaks of:
— Ronnie Laybold (@CoyotesGlendale) October 22, 2018
— William Boor (@wboor) October 30, 2018
So far this Arizona Fall League season, Harrison has shown a much more simplified approach, allowing him to utilize his superior bat speed and upper half mechanics to the best of his advantage. The drop in lower half involvement has led Harrison to drastically drop his strikeout total and improve his contact rates. But as positive as these adjustments have been, has Harrison negated his lower half too much?
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
Looking at the new Harrison, his lower half is nearly stationary, limiting his fence clearing ability, especially at his future home of Marlins Park. The minuscule hip torque and lack of power transfer will cause his hit tool to rise but his power tool, which currently stands at 55, to drop.
The question is can Harrison put it all together and become the complete offensive threat the baseball world foresaw when the Brewers offered him nearly a $700K signing bonus and when the Marlins traded soon-to-be NL MVP to Milwaukee for him last offseason. While that remains to be seen and while Harrison will need to make several more adjustments in order for it to happen including closing his very wide stance, his willingness to learn and change his approach in order to improve is very encouraging. For evidence, peep one of Harrison’s latest efforts: 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB 2 SB. He’s reached base in all 13 of his Arizona Fall League games.
By losing a literal first step, Harrison has taken a big proverbial leap towards becoming a more complete hitter this fall. From a development standpoint, he’s following a similar path as the guy who he accompanied to Miami, Lewis Brinson. Already making positive strides this fall, Harrison looks forward to a spring training campaign in which he will share a dugout, a clubhouse not only with Brinson but with MLB coaches and facilities at his disposal. All things considered, we like a near-complete five-tool outfielder to join Brinson and potentially another piece of the Yelich trade, right hander Jordan Yamamoto, in Miami for regular season action in the second half of 2019.