In baseball, and really in any sport, the most attention is always going to be directed towards players who have been drafted high or given lots of guaranteed money. They’re going to be expected to be the most talented, and therefore put up the best results. Somehow, that does not seem to limit San Francisco Giants prospect Devin Harris, who was the team’s 48th round pick in 2010.
The 25-year-old East Carolina product, who now leads the Giants organization with 16 home runs and has an impressive 48 RBIs, was considered by many to be an organizational player entering the year, meaning that his primary purpose was to fill out rosters and help out wherever needed. His performance this year, however, has undoubtedly vaulted his status big time.
Harris, who has split his time between the playing the outfield and serving as the designated hitter for the Class A San Jose Giants this year, is a difficult player to project. He has shown power hitting potential in the past few years, but has not been able to put everything together in one season. Harris hit 15 homers in 399 at-bats for the Augusta GreenJackets in 2011, but only hit .231. Last year, he struggled again, splitting the year between Augusta and San Jose and countering his .215 overall average with 12 home runs.
At 25, this year was probably Harris’s last chance to establish himself as a player worth watching, and he certainly has done that over the first half of 2013. He has already established a career high in homers, and most importantly he has a steadier average than he has ever had this far into a season, as he is hitting .264 over 254 at-bats. It seems he has figured out how to make adjustments as well, having recovered from a down May to rediscover his stroke in June. Harris has been neck-and-neck with fellow San Jose slugger Angel Villalona (who I wrote about in this column last week) for the organizational lead in homers, and he showcased his talents spectacularly yesterday, going 3-for-3 with two homers and five RBIs. He topped all this success off by being a late addition to the California League All Star team, which will play Tuesday.
Despite his success, the jury is still out on the farm system’s hottest power hitter. As a 48th rounder, who was picked out of college, Harris will have to repeatedly go above and beyond to have a shot at the majors. He will always be trying to shake that “organizational player” label, and slipping for as short as a few weeks could hurt his stock.
Though the Giants are constantly in search of raw power, Harris needs to become a more effective in-the-park hitter as well, as he can’t reasonably expect to hit 40 homers a year playing in AT&T Park. Since he is on his second go-around in A-ball, Harris may be able to secure a promotion to AA Richmond at some point this season. It should be interesting to see if he can defy the odds and continue working his way through the system in the quest to become a big-leaguer.