2017 was a learning year for RHP Jon Harris.
The 2015 1st round pick had put himself firmly on the prospect radar after a solid 2016 split between Lansing and Dunedin. The Blue Jays rewarded him with a challenging assignment to AA New Hampshire to begin 2017, and his season stats reflected the struggles he had.
Eastern League hitters batted .292 against Harris, and he was among the league leaders in hits and runs allowed. By his own admission, Harris was in the middle of the strike zone too much, and hitters made him pay the price. He also apparently had some mechanical issues – as he raised his hands over his head during his windup, hitters were able to get a good glimpse of his change up grip, and pounded that pitch accordingly. Harris made an adjustment to hide the pitch better, and his 2nd half results were better.
Harris doesn’t blow hitters away, and relies on pounding the bottom half of the strike zone with his two seamer, complementing it with his change, curve, and slider. For much of the season, he was getting the two seamer up in the zone. But there were some good take-aways from his 2017 season: a 9.9% whiff rate, and only an 18.4% line drive rate. He didn’t generate the amount of ground ball contact that one would expect, but he still garnered it at about a 45% clip.
Where does Harris go from here? Does he repeat AA, or do the Blue Jays move him to Buffalo, putting him a rung away from the big leagues? You certainly could make a case for sending him back to New Hampshire for at least a half season, but his second half results probably are sufficiently encouraging for the club to send him to AAA, where he’ll be a back of the rotation starter. He will never be a frontline starter, but there’s plenty to like about Harris: a solid four pitch mix that can turn a lineup over, a good downward plane on his fastball, and a frame that looks like it with a bit more on it could eat up innings.