The Mets should be pleased with the early returns on St. Lucie outfielder Alonzo Harris. Of all their 39th round draftees since 2000, the 22-year-old Harris is one of only two to climb as high and succeed at Advanced A*. The way he's played this year, however, might indicate that he has even grander potential than that.
*2009 draftee RHP Taylor Whitenton is coincidentally on the same St. Lucie club as Harris
Back in 2007, the Mets drafted the second baseman out of a Mississippi high school, and right out of the gate he garnered a lot more prospect chatter than expected. Everyone knew he was a gifted athlete, but when he came out and knocked five home runs with a .308 batting average in about 100 at-bats in his 2008 professional debut with the Mets' now-defunct Gulf Coast League affiliate, Harris opened eyes. He was even more impressive in 2009, when hit 10 home runs and stole 15 bases for the Kingsport Mets.
As a middle infielder with both power and speed, Harris began to climb the Mets' prospect rankings, and the organization responded — as they often did — with an aggressive promotion. Skipping over Brooklyn, the then 19-year-old Harris was promoted to Low-A Savannah to finish the 2009 season.
Like most aggressive promotions by the Omar Minaya regime, it didn't work out. Harris struggled with Savannah between his late-season promotion in 2009 and the end of the 2010 season. He flashed more of his power and speed potential, but as his already shaky plate discipline crumbled, so did the rest of his offensive stats.
In addition, the speed of the full-season game didn't do him any favors in the field as he made 21 errors at second base, precipitating a move to center field. At that point — with a strikeout rate above 20 percent and a walk rate around 5 percent — Harris was perceived as just too raw. What value he had as a prospect deteriorated as he looked more and more like low-minors depth.
Things began to turn around in 2011, however, in his third stint with Savannah. Harris made some moderate strides in what was a bit of a consolidation season, watching his strikeout rate move down some while he learned to be a little more patient at the plate:
It was easy to chalk that up to familiarity with the league, though, which is why his 2012 season with High-A St. Lucie is so important to his long-term chances.
Thus far, he's passed the test. Through 94 games he's batting .282/.359/.416 with 5 home runs. He's also stolen 30 bases at 79 percent rate of success, and his plate discipline continues to make huge strides -- which one would hope will give this improvement a measure of sustainability as he continues to climb.
Now, this isn't the profile of a future Major League All-Star. Hell, these numbers might not even belong to those of a big-league bench piece. But between his athleticism and his growth at the dish, there's enough going on with Harris these last couple of seasons to at least stop and take notice as he does his best to regain his former status as a prospect.