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Missouri outfielder Trey Harris is defying the numbers

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Bieser and Harris
Tray Harris and Steve Bieser
Tripleplay

About two weeks into the current Mizzou baseball season, I wrote that “Mizzou Baseball’s lineup is getting it done.” At the time, the Tigers were in the midst of a 20-game win streak, bolstered by an offense full of veteran contributors and fresh faces. Specifically, I pointed out Robbie Glendinning, Brett Bond and Connor Brumfield as the key pieces in the Tiger offense.

I also wrote about junior Trey Harris, a steady, albeit disappointing outfield piece in his first two years at Mizzou:

Harris is valuable for his defense and speed, and at this point any sort of above-average offensive input would make him an extremely valuable player. He’s a guy who’s hard to leave out of the lineup, but he’s almost always going to be near the bottom.

At the time, Harris was hitting well, carrying a .348/.385/.435 slash line well above his career averages. He’d also shown some flashes of power in his freshman year. I assumed these numbers weren’t sustainable — early season numbers usually aren’t — and concluded thus:

Harris’ contributions, though inessential in nature, could make the difference between a good Mizzou offense and a scary one.

I’m happy to say, I was right!

Kind of. That is, not really.

In his junior year, Trey Harris has transformed himself from a bottom-of-the-lineup defensive contributor to quite possibly Missouri’s best all-around player. And it starts with his drastic turnaround at the plate.

Trey Harris: Career vs. 2017

AVG OBP SLG HR H BB SO
AVG OBP SLG HR H BB SO
0.238 0.303 0.333 2 44 13 34
0.298 0.436 0.603 11 36 29 21

You’ll see here a number of key statistics from Harris’s career averages compared with this year’s line.

In my opinion, the most telling is the relationship between strikeouts and walks. While Harris proved to be incredibly strikeout-prone in his first two years, he never balanced out those unproductive outs with walks.

This year? Not so much. Harris is still striking out a fair amount, but he’s walking more. That’s a pretty surprising development for a guy who nearly had a 2-to-1 K/BB rate last year. It suggests, at least numerically, that Harris has dramatically improved his eye at the plate.

In turn, this has led to a resurgence of that power I mentioned earlier. Harris showed a little pop in his freshman year before that power dramatically dropped off the table in 2016.

What a difference a year makes. Harris is now one of the most dangerous hitters in the conference. He’s ranked third in home runs and slugging percentage and fifth in RBIs. He’s also done all this while missing a few games with an oblique injury. That bottom-of-the-order threat has turned into Mizzou’s most consistent and reliable power threat, passing even Bond.

So what kind of season is Trey Harris looking at right now? He’s been hurt for the past few games, so let’s be conservative and say he plays 12 more games on the year with about 40 more at-bats.

Harris 2017 Projection (4/21)

AB H 2B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG SO BB
AB H 2B HR RBI AVG OBP SLG SO BB
161 48 5 14 53 0.298 0.435 0.59 32 38

That’s an incredibly strong year for a guy who started 2017 as a defense-first piece. And about that defense: Harris has a perfect fielding percentage so far this year. He’s only had one assist, but without looking at each game, it’s hard to tell how many chances he’s had.

All in all, I’m happy to say Trey Harris has proved me wrong in a major way. I said he was the difference between a strong Missouri lineup and a dangerous one, but I didn’t anticipate he’d be the most dangerous piece on the roster.

With another year of improvement like this, there’s no doubt Harris will be the next in a long line of Missouri Tigers hearing his name called in the MLB draft.