Blue Jays top prospect Jonathan Harris has breakout start

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Blue Jays 2015 first round pick Jonathan Harris enjoyed his finest outing as a professional on Friday. The right-hander pitched 5.0 shutout innings for the Vancouver Canadians on the road facing the Hillsboro Hops. Harris allowed just four hits in his outing, striking out four and walking two batters. It was the first time that Toronto’s number two prospect has lasted a full five.

At the end of a long college baseball season, it’s important that we take Harris’ totals from 2015 with a grain of salt as fatigue is surely playing a factor at some level. In each of his past two outings, he’s allowed four earned runs over four innings, but a change back to a more comfortable mound approach helped him to get over the hump on Friday.

“My pitching coach after our last start asked me when I was in school, how did I get guys out?” Harris told Tyler Maun of MiLB.com. “He was like, ‘Well in your next start, do what you did in school that made you successful. That’s what I was able to do.”

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I appreciate the Vancouver staff and/or Toronto organization taking this hands-off approach with Harris. While you’d like to fine-tune an arm out of High School to both protect their elbow and maximize their potential, a 21-year old college arm has matured into their body and earned success already at a high level. For Harris, who seems to have a little Mark Buehrle between the ears, this was all about giving hitters the opportunity to create their own outs.

“I’ve realized that if I throw strikes, the hitters are going to get themselves out,” he said. “They know I’m going to be in the zone, so they’re going to swing at my pitches instead of pitches when I’m behind in the count and have to throw down the middle. It’s just being able to stay confident the entire outing and execute what I need to execute.”

At 6’3″, Harris can produce some downhill action on his fastball which already features some nice tailing action. Aaron Sanchez he is not, but when you see Sanchez attacking the zone with movement on his heater, it produces consistently weak contact. That will be the goal for Harris going forward, and I see him being a quick worker as he progresses.

He’ll see the mound a few more times before the Minor League regular season comes to a close, but expect 2016 to be a big season for Harris as he returns fully rested as a 22-year old. He won’t fight for a rotation spot out of spring training, but sooner than later, he’s going to pitch his way into the conversation.

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