The top prospect lists continue to tickle out in the weeks leading up to the start of baseball’s Spring Training, and the latest top-100 ranking comes to us courtesy of ESPN’s Keith Law (in two posts, 100-51 and 50-1). Two players from within the Milwaukee Brewers organization made Law’s final ranking - the one guy who made every one of these lists, and another player making his first top-100 list appearance of the winter.
Keston Hiura, naturally, is the highest-ranked Cream City prospect. Law places him at #21 overall, though his write-up is probably the most pessimistic that any national outlet has released this offseason. Law praises Hiura’s “short, simple, repeatable swing” but suggests that he has more doubles power and will max out in the teens when it comes to home runs. Law also denigrates Hiura on defense, noting that a ‘40’ grade on the 20-80 scouting scale may be generous in terms of his arm strength and adding that his range when it comes to fielding at the keystone is “probably fringy if you like him.” Law is so low on Hiura’s arm strength that he states if Hiura is unable to stick at second base, his only other defensive option might be at first base. Obviously, his would play much worse at the cold corner than it does at second.
The other prospect highlighted on Law’s list was Milwaukee’s 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Zack Brown. In 22 games (21 starts) for AA Biloxi last season, the former 5th-round pick amassed 125.2 innings while posting a 2.44 ERA, 8.3 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, and a 57% grounder rate, adding up to an excellent 72 DRA-. Here’s some of what Keith had to say about his #85 overall prospect:
“Drafted in the fifth round out of the University of Kentucky in 2016, Brown saw everything tick up last year. He is throwing 92 to 95 mph, working with a four- and a two-seamer, as well as a plus curveball, a changeup and a new slider that should give him a fourth (or fifth) average pitch.
He is very competitive, and he showed last year that he could command his stuff to both sides of the plate. He always has thrown strikes, but work with the Brewers’ coaches got him to focus less on throwing hard and more on locating.”
While some scouts attach reliever risk to Brown’s profile, Law thinks that Brown will be at least a back-of-the-rotation starter based on his pitch mix and command and also believes that he is still improving as a pitcher.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Prospectus