Keston Hiura Makes Quick Adjustments
When the Brewers drafted Keston Hiura ninth overall last year, they figured he would move fast through the system if his throwing elbow remained intact.
The 21-year-old Hiura proved the Brewers correct when he reached Double-A Biloxi as a regular second baseman in June. On the year, he hit .322/.381/.523 with nine home runs through 74 games.
That's not to say Hiura's development has been drama free. He played exclusively DH at UC Irvine in 2017 because of the partial tear in his elbow, then he appeared in just three games at second base in his pro debut. This spring he wasn't ready to play the field regularly at high Class A Carolina until mid-May as he dealt with elbow soreness.
With a short, compact stroke, good balance, quick hands and solid strike-zone judgment, Hiura has always hit and has not needed adjustment periods at each new level.
Many believe Hiura is the best hitting prodigy drafted by the Brewers since they took Ryan Braun fifth overall in 2005.
BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD
The Brewers deserve credit for sticking with righthander Zack Brown after a rough junior year at Kentucky, when he ran up a 6.08 ERA in 11 games.
"Our scouts hung in there with him and didn’t lose sight of what he brought to the table," farm director Tom Flanagan said, "no matter how his year was going."
The Brewers selected Brown in the fifth round in 2016 and watched him master a pair of Class A levels in 2017, when he notched a 3.11 ERA in 110 innings. Just four of those starts came at high Class A Carolina, but the Brewers saw enough in that sample to move him to Double-A Biloxi to open 2018.
The aggressive move has paid off in a big way. Through 15 starts, Brown went 6-0, 2.54 with 89 strikeouts in 92 innings and the 23-year-old earned a midseason all-star nod in the Southern League.
Brown throws a lively fastball in the 91-94 mph range and mixes in a sinker and circle-changeup. The pitch that has been the key to his upward mobility, however, is a curveball he throws hard enough (low 80s) to simulate a slider at times.
"He throws it much harder than most curveballs,” Flanagan said. "He throws it with such velocity, it’s really tough to hit.”
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** The Brewers moved Triple-A Colorado Springs righthander Corbin Burnes from the rotation to the bullpen because the club wants to see if he might be able to help in Milwaukee in the second half.
** Biloxi first baseman Jake Gatewood was unable to participate in the Southern League all-star game or that circuit’s home run derby after suffering a bruised hand when hit by a pitch a few days before those festivities.