Miami Marlins

A skilled three-sport star, the Marlins' top prospect might be baseball's most athletic

Miami Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison smiles during the spring training baseball workouts at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in Jupiter, Florida.
Miami Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison smiles during the spring training baseball workouts at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in Jupiter, Florida. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

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Meet the Miami Marlins' top prospects

Miami Marlins writer Andre C. Fernandez introduces you to some of the top prospects in the team's farm system. These players are expected to be a big part of the team's rebuild and will be names that fans will be hearing for years to come.

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He could be speeding down sidelines and hauling in passes in a football uniform these days.

Or he could have given basketball a shot and been delivering highlight-reel dunks at arenas around the country.

Monte Harrison had the physical tools to go pro in either sport.

But by the time he was finishing high school, Harrison knew that baseball, a sport he started playing when he was 6 after his father passed away, was the one he loved the most.

"When I was little I was playing baseball just to keep out of trouble," Harrison said. "After my junior year, I told my mom I just wanted to play baseball full time. It really grew on me."

The Marlins are in position to reap the biggest rewards from Harrison’s decision to showcase his talents on a baseball diamond.

The Marlins acquired Harrison, now a center fielder for their Double A affiliate in Jacksonville, along with their current starting center fielder, Lewis Brinson, and prospects Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto in the trade last January with the Milwaukee Brewers for Christian Yelich.

Harrison, 22, has since become the Marlins’ top-rated prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com and is ranked No. 61 in baseball overall.

Like Brinson, the Marlins have seen glimpses of his hitting power to all fields, but have yet to see consistency at the plate fully emerge. Harrison enters the second half of the Double A season having hit nine homers, 13 doubles and has 21 RBI despite hitting .225 and striking out a Southern League-high 110 times in 253 at-bats.

"He’s got all the tools you could possibly want," said a scout who has watched Harrison play this season at Jacksonville. "You could see the raw power is there. A player like that just needs to work on the swing-and-miss and work on the strikeouts. Nowadays we’re seeing a lot more home runs and strikeouts in baseball so you’d like to see more contact in the minor leagues, so the strikeouts become more acceptable if you’re hitting home runs like that. But he’s got the tools to do special things."

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Miami Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison runs into home plate during the spring training baseball workouts at Roger Dean Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018, in Jupiter, Florida. David Santiago dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Harrison’s defensive skills and quickness on the base paths, where he has 14 stolen bases in 16 tries, fit exactly what the Marlins have been looking for in their search for athletic players at key positions.

"When you watch him play you know why he’s such a good baseball player," said Jacksonville pitcher Nick Neidert, the Marlins’ No. 8 prospect. "You think a ball is in the gap, he just tracks it down. He sets an example with the way the Marlins want to do things around here."

Harrison caught the Marlins’ attention after an outstanding 2017 season in the Brewers’ system in which he hit 21 home runs and stole 27 bases between the Single A and Double A levels.

"I’ve felt better at the plate, but the results haven’t really been there," Harrison said. "But if you stick to what you’re doing and you trust it, things will fall into place. I know I’m in a spot where there’s high expectations, but that’s what you work for, that’s what you want. I’m just going to continue work every day to get better."

Harrison, who was rated the fifth-highest football prospect in Missouri by ESPN as a wide receiver at Lee’s Summit West High School near Kansas City, made his intentions clear by his senior year that he wanted to play baseball.

Harrison and his brother, Shaquille, a guard for the Phoenix Suns, recently accomplished the rare feat of siblings playing two different sports at the pro level at the same time.

Harrison said he would not have made it to the pros without his mother, Michelle Francis, raising them and their sister as a single mom with help from their grandmother.

"I can’t say anything without talking about her," Harrison said. "Every situation I’ve been put in, I owe it to her for the sacrifices she made."

Harrison said his mom had he and his brother play multiple sports growing up, which he said kept him out of trouble.

Despite offers to play college football at several FBS schools, including Nebraska, Harrison signed with the Brewers for more than $700,000 over slot value after they picked him 50th overall in the second round in 2014.

An ankle injury and a broken hamate bone in his hand limited his development early, but Harrison took off once healthy in 2017, winning Midwest League MVP honors.

The Marlins are being patient with Brinson and Harrison as they develop, knowing both have the potential to form part of what could be one of baseball’s most talented outfields in the coming years.

"We know we’re the names from the Yelich trade and that’s come with a lot of pressure, but at the same time you have to accept that," Harrison said. "There’s a pedestal that we’ve been put up to and people expect us to live up to. it But for me right now, it’s all about developing and how can I get better each and every day."

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