The Milwaukee Brewers tabbed Monte Harrison with the 50th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft knowing that he would be a project. The 6’3″ outfielder possessed athleticism in spades, prompting the Brewers to lure Harrison away from a collegiate commitment to Nebraska as a wide receiver with a well over-slot $1.8 million signing bonus.
Having grown up as a multi-sport athlete, the Brewers knew that Harrison’s baseball skills were still quite raw and that patience would be a key in his development. But what they couldn’t have accounted for all those years ago was that Monte would be snakebitten with serious injuries. In 2015, it was a ghastly ankle injury sustained when he slipped on wet grass while rounding the bases in a game for rookie-level Helena. The break required surgery, and the recovery and rehab process took some nine months. Then in 2016, he suffered a broken hamate bone in his left wrist while with the Class-A Timber Rattlers and was able to appear in only 80 games on the year.
Harrison showed glimpses of his five-tool potential when on the field, but had difficulty finding consistency and struggled to a .225/.331/.337 slash line during his first 204 games as a professional. Fully healthy in 2017, however, the tide began to turn for Harrison’s career. He spent the previous winter working with Cressey Sports Performance, working to improve his training regimen and core functionality while also implementing some mechanical changes to his swing. Harrison told BP Milwaukee’s Jack Conness back in April that “My plan is just to keep growing, each and every day, not trying to focus too far down the road. Every time I wake up in the morning, the first thing I tell myself is to ‘seize the day’.”
Monte did just that day-in and day-out during the 2017 season. He began the year back with Class-A Wisconsin and tore through the league, lighting up opposing pitchers to the tune of a .265/.359/.479 slash with 11 home runs and 11 steals in 261 plate appearances. In the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, his offensive output translated to a sparkling .307 TAv. After being selected to the Midwest League All-Star game and hitting two home runs in the contest, Harrison sent on his way to the Class-A Advanced Carolina Mudcats.
The promotion did little to stall Harrison’s momentum. He picked up right where he left off before the promotion, torturing Carolina League hurlers with a .278/.341/.487 batting line across 252 plate appearances. He clubbed another 10 dingers and swiped 16 more bags with the Mudcats, giving him a 20+ homer, 20+ steal season between two levels in 2017. His .305 TAv with Carolina was nearly identical to the stellar total he put up with the T-Rats.
Following his tremendous performance in the regular season, the Brewers elected to send Harrison as one of their representatives to the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League to suit up for the Salt River Rafters. Though most of the competition was a bit more advanced, Harrison acquitted himself well on the showcase circuit. Despite appearing in only 13 of the Rafters’ 30 games, Harrison was among league leaders and tops on his squad by popping five home runs in just 53 at-bats. He hit .283/.333/.604 and stole 5 bases during league play in the AFL, which wrapped up over this past weekend.
An outstanding performance in the Fall League tied a bow on what was a banner season for Monte Harrison. As a result of his fully healthy breakout campaign, Harrison shot up prospects lists and was recently ranked as #3 in Milwaukee’s system by BP. The writers gave Harrison the same 70 OFP “future All-Star” grade as another center field prospect he’s been compared to before:#1 prospect Lewis Brinson.
There is still plenty of risk with Harrison as a prospect, namely the swing-and-miss tendencies that caused him to whiff in 27.1 percent of his plate appearances during 2017. He’ll also have to continue to demonstrate that he can remain on the field going forward. Scouts did note, however, that he has reigned in much of his aggressiveness at the plate by the end of 2017. He drew this praise from John Eshleman: “Harrison is an 80 athlete with 65 speed and a 60 arm, with plus strength and bat speed to accurately earn the “five-tool talent” moniker. He has demonstrated the ability to impact games in all facets; his 6 raw power yielding extra bases, and his elite speed and baserunning instincts creating opportunities.” He also expects Harrison to be able to stick in center field.
Monte Harrison took a major step toward actualizing his incredible raw talent in 2017, but there is of course still work to be done. He has yet to make the vaunted jump to AA ball, which many say is the most difficult step in the minor leagues. He ought to get that opportunity at some point in 2018, however, and if he can continue to enjoy good health and keep on refining his baseball skills then it may not be long before Monte Harrison is talked about as not only the top prospect within Milwaukee’s system, but as one of the best throughout all of baseball.