The Milwaukee Brewers shocked almost the entire fan base by not selecting a toolsy outfielder or a project pitcher in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft. They took a college bat that no one had them selecting. It was also the right pick, even if there are questions about his defense and health.
What Are The Positives That Hiura Has?
He can hit. He can really hit. Scouts had very few questions about his ability at the plate. He slashed .442/.567/.693 playing with one healthy arm this season. That’s good for a 1.260 OPS in just under 200 at-bats at the D-1 college level. He also only struck out 38 times, while drawing 55 walks. Dude knows what he’s doing around the plate, and his ability should translate very well to the professional game. When pundits and scouts say he can handle the bat, they mean it.
He may not hit for great power, but he knows the strike zone, and can spray line drives everywhere all day long. There’s a non-zero chance that his bat is Major League ready right now.
He’s also young for a college junior. He doesn’t turn 21 for another two months. He could conceivably have Tommy John surgery on his elbow, rehab, spend a few months in the Minor Leagues, and be on the Brewers roster during his age 22 season.
How Real Are The Concerns Over Hiura?
The biggest issues facing Hiura, and they are big, are that he may or may not need elbow surgery, and he doesn’t have a position. Both of these aren’t quite the massive problems they’re made out to be.
Tommy John surgery for a position player isn’t nearly as tough to come back from as it is for a pitcher. There would be time off for the surgery and the rehab, but he could be back at baseball activities within a few months. It’s not the end of the world, assuming he even needs surgery.
The defensive issue…is a more real concern. The Milwaukee Brewers don’t play in the American League anymore, so they can stash him at DH. He’s a bit like Kyle Schwarber minus the attempt at playing him at catcher….and the, erm, larger body type. Schwarber doesn’t really have a position, but the Cubs slot him in wherever they can. Hiura will likely at least try second base, but he may very well need to be stashed in the outfield.
Again, not the end of the world. We don’t really know if Hiura can stick at second base. If he can, problem solved.
Once his elbow issues are sorted out, it’s time to look forward to Hiura filling up box scores with doubles and RBIs while he rakes his way through the Milwaukee Brewers Minor League system.