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Milwaukee Brewers 2017 MLB Draft Preview: College Hitters

A look at potential Brewers prospects.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Cal State Fullerton vs Vanderbilt Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing our preview of the 2017 draft, we move on to the offensive side of the ball. This year has some very intriguing bats at the top of the boards. Collegiately, the Brewers have a number of options for them coming in at number nine overall.

Last year the Brewers took a college bat in Corey Ray. They could follow it up with a collegiate class that, while not deep, could immediately add another top prospect alongside Ray.

The Scouting Report

Jeren Kendall OF
#6 MLB Pipeline || #11 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Hit: 50 || Power: 50 || Run: 70 || Arm: 55 || Field: 60 || Overall: 55

Pavin Smith 1B
#8 MLB Pipeline || #7 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Hit: 55 || Power: 55 || Run: 35 || Arm: 50 || Field: 50 || Overall: 55

Adam Haseley OF
#14 MLB Pipeline || #13 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Hit: 55 || Power: 45 || Run: 55 || Arm: 50 || Field : 55 || Overall: 55

Jake Burger 3B
#16 MLB Pipeline || #19 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Hit: 50 || Power: 55 || Run: 50 || Arm: 55 || Field: 50 || Overall: 55

Keston Hiura 2B/OF
#26 MLB Pipeline || #20 Baseball America

MLB Pipeline Tool Grades:
Hit: 60 || Power: 50 || Run: 50 || Arm: 45 || Field: 45 || Overall: 50

The Lowdown

Leading off for the college bat class is a (somewhat) Wisconsin native, Jeren Kendall. Kendall was born in Florida, and his family moved to Wisconsin. There, he gained lots of attention and was drafted by the Red Sox in the 30th round of the 2014 draft. If it weren't for sign-ability concerns, Kendall would have gone higher.

Kendall can do it all. He has a great bat with raw power thanks to his fast hands. He’s a plus-defender and has plus-plus speed. Heading into the season at Vanderbilt, some had him as the best prospect in the draft. That has since come down since Kendall has shown he has quite the hole in his swing, striking out in 28% of his at-bats. While that is concerning, Kendall seems to fit the David Stearns mold for Brewers player: highly athletic and toolsy. It wouldn’t be hard to see them bringing Kendall home.

The next player on this list is more or less the polar opposite of Kendall. Pavin Smith is a bat. The collegiate first baseman does not come with much athleticism, and while there’s a chance he could be an adequate left fielder, it is much more likely that he is limited to first. What Smith doesn’t offer in athleticism, he makes up for in his offensive game. The University of Virginia left-hander has a .346/.429/.571 line through 56 games. While Kendall has a lot of swing and miss, Smith has almost none, striking out nine times so far this season compared to his 11 homers. Smith’s bat could carry him quickly through any system and get him playing time in the very near future at the highest level.

Smith and Kendall are the 2017 headliners, but there are still some good batters left on the table. Adam Haseley is another outfielder who has hit his way into top ten talk this season. A teammate of Pavin Smith’s, Haseley is batting near .400 through almost a complete season with 14 bombs. While he has shown great bat control, he lacks the pure athleticism of Kendall. Don’t take that as a knock, though, as Kendall is an incredibly gifted athlete. Haseley should still have the tools to be a good center fielder or a really good corner outfielder.

Next, we have Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger. Burger is not in great shape, but that doesn’t prevent him from hitting the crap out of the baseball. He’s currently raking a 1.150 OPS with a .350 ISO as the collegiate season winds down. Not to mention, Burger has walked nine more times than he has struck out. Despite his frame, he’s surprisingly athletic and could still handle third base as he progresses. If anything limits him, it will be his slow reaction to the ball.

Finally, we end with what most scouts say is the best collegiate bat coming out this year: Keston Hiura. Hiura has been given grades as high as 75 for a hit tool. Easy to see why as he’s hitting .442 through a career-high 56 games this year. To go along with that amazing bat, he has some power and could be a 15 home run hitter in the bigs. So why is he so low? Hiura is currently stuck DHing for his college team due to an arm injury. Some MLB teams believe that injury will require Tommy John. Those arm concerns would also take Hiura from being a very valuable second baseman to a moderately useful OF (likely left field because his arm isn’t that good).

How They Become Brewers

I could honestly see every player on this list being drafted by Stearns and Co. come June 12. Kendall is an outfielder who screams Brewers while you look at the skill set. If the Brewers believe they can fix his strikeout problems enough so that he can play, I think he’d be a steal at #9.

While Kendall is the athletic beast the Brewers love, Smith is the bat they need. First base isn’t a deep position throughout the system so he wouldn’t be roadblocked by anyone. If his bat hits the way it’s expected and is a quick riser to the big leagues, he could play left field while he still has some athletic ability until Eric Thames’ contract is up. He isn’t the typical profile for this front office, but he’s good enough to tempt them to change their habits.

Burger is similar, but he might be more limited than Smith. His frame is heavy, and that could cause teams to have long-term concerns. Haseley seems like he has a low floor but in the top 10, I imagine the people picking the player would rather have the dynamic athletic profile Kendall and a few of the high school outfielders offer.

Hiura is the most intriguing candidate. His defensive profile isn’t great and likely needs surgery, but if the Brewers are willing to wait for the recovery after the surgery, the could get the steal of the draft once Hiura is healthy. Also, Hiura could offer them the chance to get one of the best bats to come out of the draft in a few years and save money for a good pick later in the draft thanks to his injury.