MLB.com has started the process of naming its top prospects by position. One of their recent installments featured two of Milwaukee’s top second base prospects: Keston Hiura and Isan Diaz.
The Milwaukee Brewers worked hard to restock their farm system over the past few years. Through shrewd trades and strategic drafting, the system is chock full of talented players. This was recently reflected in MLB.com’s ranking of top second base prospects in all of baseball. Although neither took the top spot, Keston Hiura and Isan Diaz made the league’s list as the third and fourth brightest second base prospects, respectively.
Hiura was the Milwaukee Brewers’ top draft pick in the 2017 First Year Player Draft. Questions regarding his health arose after he was limited to DH duties in his final season at UC-Irvine. However, no one questioned his hit tool prior to his pro debut. In fact, most pundits and scouts regarded him as the top hitter in the draft class.
The 21-year-old didn’t disappoint in his first taste of professional ball. He started out in the rookie-level Pioneer League, where he produced a 1.339 OPS in 72 plate appearances. His hot start continued following a promotion to Low-A Wisconsin. He maintained a .333/.374/.476 slash line in 115 plate appearances with the Timber Rattlers. Despite his defensive shortcomings, his outlandish hitting ability earned him a spot on the top prospect list.
Even though Diaz made a name for himself in the Brewers’ organization, he actually began his career in the desert. The Arizona Diamondbacks drafted him out of high school in 2014. After two years at the rookie level, Arizona traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers in a package to obtain Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner from the Brewers.
Diaz struggled a bit in 2017 during his second year of full-season ball. Playing for High-A Carolina, he could only muster a .222/.334/.376 slash line. This also came with a career-high 26.6-percent strikeout rate. However, not all was bad for Diaz. He walked a career-high 13.6-percent of the time, and he still managed to tally 13 home runs in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. To further add to his profile, he also logged nine steals. 2017 may have been a step in the wrong direction, but his tools and overall potential keep Diaz among the top second base prospects in the league.
Second Base Prospects Ahead of Hiura and Diaz
Sure, Hiura and Diaz both possess a lot of upside. That brings up another question though: who claimed the top two spots?
Coming in at number two is Willie Calhoun of the Texas Rangers. His appearance in this list is a bit deceiving, as he is expected to be a full-time left fielder and/or designated hitter for Texas moving forward. However, his high ranking shouldn’t be questioned by any means. Even though he is a defensive liability, the 23-year-old is an outstanding hitter. His OPS in the minors consistently stayed above .900 thanks to raw power and high contact rates. Adding on to that, he made his major-league debut last season. Despite getting off to a rocky start, he batted .400 over the final week of the season. He is primed for a major role in the Rangers’ offense.
Who topped the rankings? None other than Phillies’ prospect Scott Kingery. Drafted in 2015 out of the University of Arizona, Kingery was known for having a good line-drive approach at the plate. His stock skyrocketed last season though, thanks to a 26-homer outburst between Double- and Triple-A. He also has excellent speed and instincts on the base paths, going 29-for-34 on stolen base attempts last year. Kingery’s defense is also good enough to put him in line for a big-league roster spot soon.
The Future for the Brewers’ Second Base Prospects
The Milwaukee Brewers currently have a bit of a void at second base. Jonathan Villar seemed to be the answer, but he regressed hard last season. Eric Sogard was a solid fill-in last year, but it’s hard to expect as much success again in 2018. Neil Walker was the best option, but he’s gone in free agency. Despite the dearth of viable options, it’s unlikely that Hiura or Diaz will make an impact in Milwaukee this season. They are both talented, but given that neither of them have appeared above High-A, they still need more seasoning in the minors. Mauricio Dubon is the most likely infield prospect to log time at second base in Milwaukee this season, but expect the Brewers to look elsewhere if they truly want to compete this season. Hiura and Diaz seem more on track to arrive in late 2019 or early 2020.
Although MLB.com doesn’t have them 1-2, Hiura and Diaz certainly warrant a high ranking among second base prospects. Their excellent hitting and impressive showings have everyone eagerly anticipating their MLB debuts. Besides, Kingery and Calhoun will both likely lose prospect status this season. Who’s to say Hiura and Diaz don’t top the list next year?