Powder Springs, Georgia, is a Mookie Betts throw from the Braves' new Cobb County ballpark. Several Minor Leaguers grew up playing ball around the tony West Cobb enclave, including Alex Speas, Marlin Willis, Taylor Trammell and Duane Underwood Jr.In 2013, the McEachern High School starting lineup featured three future pro
Powder Springs, Georgia, is a Mookie Betts throw from the Braves' new Cobb County ballpark. Several Minor Leaguers grew up playing ball around the tony West Cobb enclave, including Alex Speas, Marlin Willis, Taylor Trammell and Duane Underwood Jr.
In 2013, the McEachern High School starting lineup featured three future pro ballplayers, and each of them took separate paths.
Infielder Jared Walker was a fifth-round pick of the Dodgers in the 2014 Draft. A year later, after Dalton Geekie spent two seasons at Georgia Highlands Community College, the right-handed pitcher was taken by the Braves in the 22nd round.
Trey Harris had the longest road to a pro contract but may have the shortest route to the big leagues. On the strength of his first full pro season, the outfielder earned a spot with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the elite Arizona Fall League. Not bad for a guy Atlanta selected in the 32nd round of the 2018 Draft during his senior year at the University of Missouri.
"In high school, I don't think any of us thought we'd get picked," admitted the 18th-ranked Braves prospect. "Jared and Dalton, it was good to see them drafted. I was glad to go the long route. It helped me grow and mature.
"I've always dreamed big. I appreciate the [college process] a lot. You start the grind in August, getting ready for February -- class, study hall, practice."
He also made the most of his time on collegiate diamonds. In 2015, the left-handed slugger earned Freshman All-SEC and All-Tournament honors. His sophomore year, he was second on the team with 36 RBIs. Having homered at SunTrust Park in an exhibition his junior year, he hit .316 with 20 extra-base hits and 50 RBIs in 56 games as a senior.
"My high school coach, Dan Torrenti, is a guy who never gets enough credit," Harris said. "He was one of my biggest supporters. A lot of the success I had at Missouri is because of what I learned from Coach Torrenti.
"He came [to McEachern] my junior year. We put him through a lot, and he kept us together. Coach taught us how to keep focus, to play. Coach is low key, doesn't like a lot of attention, but he's a big reason for why I'm here today."
Harris opened a few eyes with a .302/.409/.434 line across Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and Class A action in his pro debut. This year, he batted .323/.389/.498, easing from Class A to Class A Advanced to Double-A en route to cracking the organization's Top 30 list.
"Last year was my first offseason. It was way more fun," he said, laughing. "I enjoy going to the field, working out. ... I go in, do the work. Really, it's just keep pushing, and I've been excited the whole time."
Still, he did not know what to expect coming into Spring Training, only that he'd be playing ball and focusing on being a better all-around prospect. Harris began the season with Class A Rome, where he batted .366/.437/.594 with 26 extra-base hits and 44 RBIs in 56 games and was named a South Atlantic League All-Star. The Braves bumped him to the Florida State League and the numbers in 34 games -- .303/.388/.443 -- earned him a promotion to Mississippi in the Southern League.
"I was happy to make it to [Class A Advanced] Florida this year," the 23-year-old said. "When I called home, my dad said I'd be in Double-A before the end of the year, and that's where I ended up.
"I've lived with a mattress on the floor. I went from Georgia to Florida to Mississippi in about a month. I've called [home] on a six-hour drive, called at 6 a.m. checking through security at the airport. … I'm glad to have the opportunity to chase my dreams."
Across the three stops, he led the system in average and finished fourth in on-base and slugging percentages while ranking second among Atlanta Minor Leaguers in hits (152) and total bases (234) and in the top 10 in just about every other offensive category. The breakout performance earned him Braves Minor League Player of the Year accolades.
An infielder in high school, Harris was moved to the outfield at Mizzou and continues to improve his defensive prowess. He committed three errors in 105 chances in 2018. This season, he made one in 194 opportunities.
"I've always been seen as a bat," he said. "That's a slippery slope -- one day you're the man, the next day you're everyone's worst enemy. As a fielder, I'm adjusting."
But he hasn't been deaf to chatter about American League teams having interest because of his offense-skewed development so far.
"That always creeps in. It's a business," Harris said. "The coolest part, for me, is that my hitting tools were always high. Now, my defense is coming up."
All things being equal, though, Harris wants to don his home team's uniform.
"I think about playing for the Braves," he said. "Whenever I watch the games, I try to envision being part of the team.
"On the other hand, as I said, it's a business. My agent told me there was some interest at the Trade Deadline. That just means, hey, other teams like me. I just want my dreams to come true."
In the meantime, through his first six AFL games, he's hitting .381/.417/.714 with two homers and four RBIs in 21 at-bats.
"If anything, I'm here to do one thing -- work on handling the curve," he said. "I change my swing a little bit on the breaking ball. I have to learn to stay the same, whether it's a fastball or a curve.
"I have to continue to put in the work. It's on me to put pressure on [the Braves] to move me up."
Duane Cross is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DuaneCrossMiLB.