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TRACK RECORD: The Brewers considered Hiura the top college hitter in the 2017 draft and did not hesitate to take him with the ninth overall pick, despite a problematic elbow that relegated him to DH as a junior at UC Irvine. He signed for a below-slot $4 million and was assigned to the Rookie-level Arizona League to undergo a throwing program with the intent of getting him in the field regularly as soon as possible. The Brewers’ confidence in Hiura’s offensive ability has already been rewarded. He soared from high Class A to Double-A in his first full season, hitting at each level and earning a Futures Game selection in 2018. Hiura’s elbow also held up and allowed him to play second base regularly starting in June, easing fears that he might need Tommy John surgery. To work further on his defense, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League, where he continued to open eyes with his offensive prowess. Including an impressive stint at big league camp in 2018, Hiura has exuded confidence in his ability to hit, and it’s easy to see why. The Brewers have not had a hitter with this kind of upside since Ryan Braun, the fifth overall pick in 2005.
SCOUTING REPORT: Hiura has a compact, powerful stroke with tremendous bat speed and the hand-eye coordination to barrel up pitches consistently. With so few moving parts in his swing, he should be able to avoid long droughts. Though not a power hitter per se, he has explosive hands and enough pop to project to be above-average in that department, with an approach of hitting to all fields. Hiura projects to hit for a high average with good power for the position. Though not a threat to steal bases, he is an average runner and shows good instincts and awareness on the basepaths and has shown the ability to take a bag when opponents aren’t paying attention. Hiura merely will have to hold his own in the field, where he has shown improvement since turning pro, with decent footwork and range. His calling card is his bat, and it’s a good one.
THE FUTURE: It’s up to the Brewers to decide whether to push Hiura to Triple-A to begin 2019, or with an in-season promotion. One thing is certain: Hiura will be the Brewers’ starting second baseman and middle-of-the-order hitter sometime in the near future. Teams already have tried to pry Hiura away in trade proposals, but the Brewers have no intention of trading a young hitter with this kind of potential.
TRACK RECORD: Burnes began the season in the Triple-A Colorado Springs rotation but moved to relief with the Brewers wanting to see if he could help them during their second-half playoff push. He performed so well that he was quickly transitioned to high-leverage situations and pitched critical innings in the NL Championship Series.
SCOUTING REPORT: Burnes has the four-pitch repertoire of a starter and pounds the strike zone with all of those pitches, keeping hitters on the defensive. With a quick arm action, he throws his fastball in the 93-95 mph range with natural movement, doing a good job of keeping it down. He relied more on his above-average mid-80s slider in 2018, which was death on righthanded hitters. Burnes mixes in an upper-80s split-changeup and upper-70s curveball, both average, that give opponents more pitches to process. He maintains his stuff deep into starts with plus control and can be a ground-ball machine when he keeps his fastball low in the zone. The Brewers love Burnes’ mound presence.
THE FUTURE: Burnes will audition for the big league rotation in 2019. His conviction in his pitches is apparent, and the Brewers think he is a star in the making.
TRACK RECORD: No prospect in the Brewers’ system had more to prove than Ray, the fifth overall pick in 2016 who signed for a franchise-record $4.125 million. He suffered a knee injury in instructional league in 2016 that required minor surgery, then he got totally out of whack in 2017 with his hitting mechanics. He regrouped in 2018 at Double-A Biloxi, rediscovering his power stroke and performing so well he won Southern League MVP.
SCOUTING REPORT: With his swing back in order, Ray displayed tremendous bat speed and power with plenty of hard contact. He still has considerable work to do in pitch recognition and plate discipline after striking out 176 times. Strikeouts likely will remain a part of Ray’s game due to his aggressiveness and long swing at times, but it’s a fair trade-off for the all-fields power he generates. Ray’s plus speed makes him a threat to steal any time he reaches base, and it also allows him to chase down balls in center field, where he is above-average with an average arm.
THE FUTURE: Now that his confidence is back, Ray should continue to improve as a hitter. He’ll head to Triple-A San Antonio in 2019 and fits the power-packed profile being played at the top level these days.
TRACK RECORD: Turang put together a pristine amateur track record, starting all four years at Santiago High in Southern California’s top division and starring for USA Baseball’s 18U National Team in both 2016 and 2017. He was mentioned as the possible No. 1 pick leading up to the 2018 draft, but he fell short of sky-high expectations and slid to the Brewers at No. 21 overall. He signed for $3,411,100 at the deadline and passed up an opportunity to play at Louisiana State.
SCOUTING REPORT: Turang ranked among the more polished prep players as an advanced hitter with solid plate discipline and a gift for putting the ball in play to all fields. He takes a smooth, lefthanded stroke that covers the entire plate and lines the ball hard from line to line. His calling card is his speed, a plus tool that makes him a difference-maker on the bases and also a shortstop who covers vast expanses. Turang flashes sure hands and good footwork and a strong enough arm to remain at shortstop. The biggest knocks against him are his slight build, fringy strength and limited power potential.
THE FUTURE: Turang has a chip on his shoulder after sliding down the draft. Low Class A Wisconsin is next.
TRACK RECORD: Brown fell in the 2016 draft after a miserable junior year at Kentucky, but the Brewers stayed with him and signed him for just over $400,000 in the fifth round. After conquering the Class A levels in 2017, he broke out with Double-A Biloxi in 2018, going 9-1, 2.44 and winning Southern League pitcher of the year.
SCOUTING REPORT: Brown has made huge strides commanding his three-pitch mix, allowing him to produce his best results as a pro and maintain his stuff deep into games. He throws his fastball in the 92-95 mph range and hits both corners of the plate while also using a two-seamer to induce a ton of ground balls. Brown began using his curveball more as a pro and it has been his best pitch at times, growing to plus and keeping hitters off his hard stuff. He also developed a better feel for an average changeup, which also made his fastball play more. In short, Brown became a pitcher rather than a thrower, and the Brewers love the way he competes and attacks the zone.
THE FUTURE: Brown is firmly on the Brewers’ radar. He will open 2019 at Triple-A as a starter and could make his major league debut as a reliever, much like Josh Hader and Corbin Burnes did.
TRACK RECORD: Acquired from the Red Sox with Travis Shaw in the Tyler Thornburg trade in December 2016, Dubon got off to a brilliant start in 2018 at Triple-A Colorado Springs. Then, trying to escape a rundown, he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, ending his season after one month.
SCOUTING REPORT: Dubon is a good athlete with sharp instincts in all areas of the game. He has superb bat-to-ball skills at the plate and solid bat speed, allowing him to generate consistent line-drive contact. He seldom walks but doesn’t strike out much, and he projects to at least an average hitter who will hit enough to make up for little home run power. Dubon is a natural shortstop but also is comfortable at second base, with the hands, range and arm to play either side of the bag. He has above-average speed and is very aggressive on the bases, making him a constant threat to steal. He plays with a high energy and enthusiasm, showing an obvious love for the game, and he demonstrates both leadership skills and maturity on and off the field.
THE FUTURE: Dubon is expected to be recovered by Opening Day. A return to Triple-A is likely, with his major league debut on target as long his knee holds up.
TRACK RECORD: The Brewers paid Lutz more than $2.3 million as the 34th overall pick in 2017, going nearly $370,000 above slot value to lure him away from Texas. The native Texan got off to a slow start in the cold weather of the Midwest League but stayed strong mentally. Lutz posted an .814 OPS from May 15 onward at low Class A Wisconsin.
SCOUTING REPORT: Lutz’s biggest upside is considered to be his budding above-average power, but he also is an impressive athlete with the tools to succeed. His power comes from bat speed and sheer strength, which will only play better as he gains experience and collects more at-bats. The Brewers do not think Lutz will be an all-or-nothing hitter because he recognizes pitches well for his age and is willing to use the whole field. He runs the bases well as an average runner with advanced instincts and shows better range in center field than might be expected. His future almost certainly is in right field because of his above-average, accurate arm.
THE FUTURE: Lutz’s power potential, athleticism and maturity gives him a solid foundation the Brewers are high on. He’ll move to high Class A Carolina as a 20-year-old in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Some thought Erceg would breeze through the Brewers’ system as an advanced college hitter, but his progress has been slowed by health issues. Already dealing with a bulging disc in his lower back, Erceg was hit in the head with a pitch in April 2018 at Double-A Biloxi and struggled for several weeks to get going at the plate. He improved in the second half, but his overall numbers were still down from previous seasons.
SCOUTING REPORT: Erceg has several tools that excite the Brewers, topped by his raw power. He can hit balls out of sight, showing tremendous pull power when pitchers miss their spots. As with most power hitters, he can get overly aggressive, taking big hacks at suspect pitches and limiting his walk rate and ability to get on base. A good athlete, Erceg has a strong arm but needs to slow down and not rush his throws. He committed a Southern League-leading 23 errors in 2018. He normally has good footwork around the bag and also runs the bases alertly with average speed.
THE FUTURE: The tools and work ethic are there for Erceg to be successful, but he must stay healthy and improve his plate discipline to reach the majors. He should see Triple-A San Antonio in 2019.
TRACK RECORD: Much like first-round pick Brice Turang, Gray was on high school prospect watch since before he could drive. And much like Turang, Gray plateaued a bit and dropped further in the 2018 draft than originally expected. Thus the Brewers were excited to get a player with his athleticism in the second round for a $1.1 million price tag. Gray hit .182 in the Rookie-level Arizona League but showed a good eye and got on base enough to make a positive impression.
SCOUTING REPORT: Gray gets scouts’ attention with his plus raw power and tremendous arm strength, his two biggest tools. He also runs well enough to play center field, though he may move to right field as he matures and gets bigger. What remains to be seen is if Gray will make enough consistent contact to take advantage of his power and above-average speed on the bases. During his showcase days, Gray often tweaked his batting stance and needs to find a consistent setup that works.
THE FUTURE: The Brewers believe a young player with raw tools like Gray can develop into an impact player. He will play the entire 2019 season at age 19, so he has plenty of time to prove them right.
TRACK RECORD: Ever since the Brewers acquired Nottingham in the trade that sent Khris Davis to Oakland in February 2016, there have been questions whether he could put his physical gifts together offensively and defensively. After middling results in two seasons at Double-A, Nottingham made huge strides at Triple-A in 2018 and was rewarded with his first big league callup. A couple of injuries, including a chip fracture in his right wrist, limited him to 50 games, the only downside to his season.
SCOUTING REPORT: Nottingham’s 6-foot-3, 230-pound size helps him produce big power but hinders his quickness and agility behind the plate. He has worked hard to improve his game-calling and blocking, now showing enough to get the job done at an average level to go with his above-average arm. Nottingham’s mammoth raw power has yet to yield big home run totals because he’s still too aggressive with too many strikeouts.
THE FUTURE: Nottingham’s biggest improvements have come on the defensive side, the key for any catching prospect. He now projects as a power-hitting backup and is still young enough to emerge as more.
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