One of my favorite things about baseball, and you will see this in a lot of what I write, is that it’s incredibly difficult to succeed on pure athleticism. In football, and basketball to an extent, there are certain aspects of the game where your physical attributes determine success as much as your form. Strip away all of the instincts, timing and technique and Khalil Mack is still 250 pounds of pure muscle rushing the quarterback at near track-star speeds.
I’m not saying it’s not helpful to have blazing speed like Trea Turner or Herculean strength like Aaron Judge, but hitting a baseball is an act that rewards meticulous preparation. Because baseball greatly rewards skill, players with very unassuming physiques can have incredibly productive careers. With superb hand-eye coordination, great pitch recognition, and a finely tuned swing a 5’ 11” 190 lb. Francisco Lindor can hit as many HR as 6’ 6” 245 lb. Giancarlo Stanton.
When I look at a baseball prospect I put much more stock into their pedigree and past success, and very simply put, Keston Hiura is really damn good at baseball. If you saw him walking on the street you would never guess that Hiura was a top prospect in any sport, but the 22 year-old has yet to meet a level of baseball that he can’t dominate.
He hit .500 in his senior year of high school. He was named the Big West Player of the Year in his junior year at UC Irvine when he hit .442 with a .567 OBP en route to being selected 9th overall in the 2017 MLB draft by the Brewers.
I would like to stop there and point out two things. First, is that Hiura played under one of the most respected coaches in college baseball, ABCA Hall of Famer Mike Gillespie, at UC Irvine (Congrats on retirement Mike…he’s never going to read this). Second, with the way the Brewers have been evaluating talent recently, I am going to pay close attention to anyone they spend a first round pick on.
It took Keston all of 15 games to get promoted from Milwaukee’s rookie ball affiliate (that’s what hitting .435 with 4 HR and 18 RBIs will do) before finishing out the 2017 season in Single-A where he continued to post solid numbers with a .333/.374/.446 slash line in 27 games.
We don’t need to get in to too many specifics about his 2018 season. He continued his ascent through the Brewer’s farm system, starting with the Class-A Advanced Carolina Mudcats and finishing with the Double-A Biloxi Shuckers. The most important thing to note is that he tore up the Arizona Fall League. He earned MVP honors for hitting 323/.371/.563 with 5 HRs and 33 RBIs in…wait for it… 23 games.
Keston is the 30th ranked prospect on MLB.com’s Prospect Watch and the 2nd ranked second base prospect behind Luis Urias – both of those numbers seem low to me. What seems right on the money is his 70-Grade Hit tool and his 50-Grade Power.
Hiura is not someone to consider as you prepare your draft board for a 10 or 12 team re-draft, but he is someone who everyone should be aware of, and be ready to move quickly on if he gets a shot with the Brewers. He may not get the call right away this season, but I’d guess it will be sooner rather than later. If past performance is any indication, once he’s up he’s not going back down. I’m not saying that I’m starting the bandwagon for Hiura, but I’m definitely getting a good seat. Feel free to come aboard with me, it’s going to be a fun ride.
Oh, and Happy Birthday Dad – you’re probably the one who read this far down.