FRISCO, Texas – In 2022, Brett Harris played 84 games with Double-A Midland, so when the Gonzaga product returned to the Rockhounds in 2023, he knew exactly what to expect.
“Getting used to the heat last year was a pretty big one. I’d never played in such sustained heat,” Harris, who played for the Zags between 2019 and 2021, said. “But also (getting used to) the pitching and the atmospheres here in the Texas League (has helped). It helps when you see guys multiple times throughout the year. Continuing to get at-bats at the highest level I can get them at has helped me. Continuing to get better every day.”
Bobby Crosby, a former Oakland shortstop is managing Harris, the A’s No. 12 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, for a second straight year and again sees plenty to like. “I know it gets overused, but he’s a baseball player. He knows what he’s doing at the plate,” Crosby said. “He has a plan and an approach every single time. In the field, he’s electric.”
“He does everything correct. He makes every play. He makes the fantastic play but also makes the routine play look boring. He does everything you would want from a coaching standpoint. He can bunt. He can move the runner over. Anything you want in any given situation he can do it and he knows his position so well that he can help other guys. He thinks ahead of the game.”
A seventh-round pick of Oakland in 2021, Harris played all four infield positions with the Zags. His three seasons in Spokane helped prepare him for the rigors of pro baseball while also forging lifelong memories. “I loved it. Taught me all the kinds of things I needed to learn to get to pro ball,” he said. “I really felt a connection with the guys. Gonzaga was just a steppingstone to where I’m at now. I really enjoyed every single second of it and would do my whole three years over again. It’s awesome.
“Honestly, (being in) the clubhouse (is what I remember most). The guys, I’d never experienced anything like that before. The camaraderie we had, the friendships, it went beyond the field with all the guys. There were no little pods within the clubhouse. It was all 35 or 37, however many there were in there, we were all brothers and enjoyed every second together.”
In 2021, Harris started his professional career in rookie ball, playing two games there before finishing his debut campaign with a 21-game stint at High Single-A Lansing of the Midwest League. Last season, he started the year in Lansing, playing 29 games for the Lugnuts before being promoted to the Rockhounds.
Last season, Crosby started him 17 times at second base with the rest of Harris’ defensive reps coming at third. However, in 2023 he has played almost exclusively at third because both Crosby and Harris feel that is the best spot for him on the infield.
“He’s so good at third, it’s hard for me to pull him off there. He makes every play,” Crosby said. “He can play short. He can play second. He can play anywhere. You could put him in the outfield. Not that I ever would unless it was an emergency because he’s so good in the infield, his hands are so good. I bet if he played every day second base, he would be great there too. At third, his reactions are so good and his glove is so good on the hot shots down at third, I wouldn’t see moving him unless need be.”
One bonus of returning to the Texas League again is that he gets to see and face two former Gonzaga teammates in Nick Trogrlic-Iverson, a reliever for Springfield, a Cardinals affiliate, and Alek Jacob, a reliever for San Antonio, a Padres affiliate before Jacob was summoned to San Diego on July 7.
“We just came from San Antonio a couple weeks ago. Went to lunch with Alek and then couple months before that, went to lunch with Nick Iverson,” Harris said. “It’s just cool. You’re still friends. Once you see them on the mound though, you’re competing against them just like we did in fall ball, but it’s all fun. It’s cool to see their success. Both are having great years. I wish nothing but the best for them. They’re two of my best friends from Gonzaga. I loved every second playing with them and now it’s fun playing against them.”
Oakland has a well-deserved reputation as an organization known for consistently sending pitching prospects to the big leagues. However, the same can also be said for infielders as the A’s continue producing big-league caliber infielders.
“When I got drafted, (Matt) Chapman was still with us. That was someone I could look up to,” Harris said. “The way that they teach it (infield), it’s not new information but it’s taught from a different angle. It’s been easy for me to absorb. They haven’t tried to change anything. It’s been an easy transition, especially having a few coaches that have been in the big leagues for a sustained amount of time and had success has really helped as well.”
Besides his strong defense, another thing Harris is known for is his high contact rate at the plate. Last season, his first full year in pro ball, he struck out just 83 times.
“I’ve definitely prided myself on not striking out much. It’s self-explanatory, but you can’t get a hit if you don’t put the ball in play,” he said. “That’s my motto. I don’t have a big leg kick as it is, but I shorten up, I choke up with two strikes. It just helps me see the ball deeper. I have a little bit of extra time to recognize spin. Playing West Coast baseball at Gonzaga, you put the ball in play, good things happen.”
Stephen Hunt is a freelance writer based in Frisco, Texas.