The rookie-level Arizona League is considered to be the lowest rung of minor league baseball here in the United States. The short-season league is often the first stop for players selected in the MLB Draft each summer, so the average age for a player in the league is about 20 years old.
This year’s iteration of the AZL Brewers’ team finished 33-23 in regular season play and qualified for the playoffs, though they were ousted in the first round by the Cubs’ affiliate. Many of Milwaukee’s 2017 draftees suited up for the AZL Brewers this year, but only two were ranked by Baseball America as top 20 prospects in the Arizona League:
4. 2B/DH Keston Hiura (age 20)
Hiura was Milwaukee’s selection at #9 overall in this year’s draft. He probably would’ve skipped the AZL entirely if not for an elbow injury; he DH’d all during his final collegiate season at UC-Irvine, so after being chosen the Brewers sent him to Arizona to work through a throwing program. He was the designated hitter for 15 games in Arizona, taking 72 plate appearances and hitting a video-game like .435/.500/.839 with 4 home runs, 3 doubles, and 5 triples. He finished out the year by appearing in 27 games for Class-A Wisconsin. Here’s what BA had to say about Hiura:
Hiura showed the explosive, strong hands, a compact bat path and plus-plus bat speed that made him arguably the top hitter in the 2017 draft class. He hit equally well after a mid-July promotion to low Class A Wisconsin. Hiura is a polished hitter with a good knowledge of the strike zone. His raw power grades as at least above-average, and he projects to get even stronger. He's an average runner but stealing bases is not expected to be part of his game.
11. OF Tristen Lutz (age 18)
A toolsy prep outfielder from the state of Texas, the Brewers popped Lutz at #34 overall in this summer’s draft and inked him to a well over-slot bonus. He hit the ground running as a professional, posting a .279/.347/.559 slash with 3 homers, 4 doubles, and 3 triples in 76 plate appearances in the Arizona League. He was promoted to Helena after that and finished out the season even stronger, tallying a .995 OPS in the Pioneer League. Lutz has been described as possessing the prototypical right field profile, but he’s played center field almost exclusively so far since signing with Milwaukee.
A natural hitter with a strong body and powerful wrists that cause balls to jump off his bat, Lutz projects as a regular corner outfielder at the big league level. He generates power with average or better bat speed and torque that is generated from his broad shoulders. Lutz played more in center field, but profiles better as a corner outfielder. He's a tick above-average runner now, but his big frame and above-average arm will allow him to handle right field.
"He's a hard worker and a really good overall player," Brewers manager Rafael Neda said.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference