The races for both MVP awards, both Cy Young awards, as well as for AL Rookie of the Year, are all but locks even though that word should never be uttered from a betting perspective. But it's true. The only true remaining race is for NL Rookie of the Year, and it's also a lock the Braves franchise will have its ninth winner. It's between Atlanta teammates Spencer Strider and Michael Harris, both -115 at Caesars Sportsbook. An oblique injury to Strider could hand it to Harris.
The 23-year-old Strider opened the season with the big club, and the right-hander is 11-5 with a 2.67 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 131.2 innings – he did pitch twice in 2021 but didn't accumulate nearly enough innings to lose his rookie status. Strider had his sixth double-digit strikeout game of the season on Sunday on his way to beating the Phillies, allowing one run and just one hit over six with 10 Ks.
Strider not only was by far the fastest pitcher this season to reach 200 strikeouts from an innings perspective, he did it in an MLB-record 130 innings, 0.2 fewer than Hall of Famer Randy Johnson needed in 2001. Gerrit Cole, who happens to lead the majors with 236 strikeouts this year, was the second-fastest by that measure, doing so in 133.2 innings in 2019. Strider also became the franchise's first rookie in the modern era (since 1900) to record a 200-strikeout season.
"The fastball he has is electric," Braves outfielder Robbie Grossman said. "Obviously, I've never faced him, but I asked [Phillies first baseman Rhys Hoskins] and he said, 'Yeah, it's a really good 98-100 [mph]."
Strider's next start was to be this Friday in Philadelphia, but he will be pushed back to a date TBA as he deals with left oblique soreness. That's not something the Braves are going to mess around with, as they need Strider healthy as they attempt to repeat as World Series champions. Losing even one start could be the difference in Harris winning the award.
The Braves called up the 21-year-old Harris for his MLB debut on May 28 and he already has shown enough to earn an eight-year, $72 million extension. It was the third-richest guarantee ever for a player with less than one full year of service time. Harris is batting .306 with 18 homers, 59 RBIs, 18 steals and an .883 OPS. He's hitting .403 with runners in scoring position, best in MLB by more than 10 points (minimum 350 plate appearances).
Harris will continue to play every day down the stretch because the Braves are battling the Mets for the NL East title and a first-round bye – meaning avoiding the Dodgers until the NLCS.
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