There’s no time of the year better for baseball junkies like us, than the dog days of August. The playoff races are starting to take shape, all levels and leagues in the minors are in full swing, the Cape Cod League playoffs are going, and there’s always a game, boxscore, or lineup to check. My wife calls this Ralphie-Phone-Hands season. Sorry I’m the creative one in the relationship, my wife just awkwardly creates puns from Tim Burton movie titles. Believe me, you don’t want to hear what she’s done with Big Fish. Any the who, this leads me to our lede topic for today, (lead-lede?) Brewers 2017 first rounder Keston Hiura. Coming into the draft many considered Hiura to be the most/best/pro-ready hitter in the draft. Once you’re done choosing your hyperbolic label, we’ll move along. Okay you done? Good, great, grand. There’s one issue with Hiura though, he hasn’t played the field in pretty much a year due to an elbow injury, that up to now, has not required Tommy John. Have I scared you off yet? If so, I hope we share a league and you’ve already gone back to asking Grey catcher questions. Why? Because I want Keston Hiura on all my dynasty teams. In a year where far off prep hitters, and high school arms are the crème de la crème, I’ll gladly target the advanced college bat with contact, power, and approach.
During his three seasons with UC Irvine, Hiura slashed .375/.466/.581 with 22 homers, 135 RBIs, and 16 steals (caught 12 times tho…). That was over 630 at bats, pretty close to 160 games. In fact in 2017 he led the nation in batting average hitting .442, while also ranking first in OBP. Now for the elephant in the room, his future position. From reports it looks like Hiura’s elbow has responded well to a throwing program and he’s on track to return to his prior position second base, while also getting some reps in the outfield next season. This isn’t so much a Willie Calhoun “his defense stinks thing”, as it’s a “his elbow almost needed major surgery and he needed to take it easy” thing. The good news is it didn’t affect his hitting in college, and it’s not affecting his hitting early in his pro career. As of writing this Killah Keston (G’d up!), is slashing .397/.446/.667 over 35 games split between rookie ball, and full season A ball. Not too shabby for a lad fresh outta college. All of this said, Hiura isn’t a future superstar like a Kris Bryant coming out of college, but I’d put him on par with an Alex Bregman or Nick Senzel. Great across the board profile, little risk of him not “at least” being fantasy relevant in the majors, but with a very good, not great, player’s ceiling. So what say you, do you want some of Keston Wee Hing Natsuo Hiura? Yeah, that’s his full name.
- If you have no interest in discussing 2019 draft guys move along. UNC’s righthander Tyler Baum has owned the Cape League this summer. He currently leads the league in wins, strikeouts, and ERA, and looks to have everyone talking. He’s still a few years away from fantasy relevance, but not a bad player to add now if you’re in a league that allows you to roster amateurs. Other standouts from the Cape are hitters Alec Bohm, Griffin Conine (Jeff’s son), Tanner Dodson, Ethan Paul, Nico Hoerner, and Stephen Scott.
- The Phillies J.P. Crawford has not slowed down in August homering last night and slashing .306/.390/.667 in the first 9 games of the month. This isn’t anything new if you’ve been following Crawford since he returned from the DL June 20th. Since that date he’s hitting .279/.383/.587 with 11 homers, and a 13.9% Bb% over 46 games. I ranked Crawford 79th on my Top 100 prospects list, which is lower than industry consensus, but that’s because the industry is more focused on his real life baseball skills. Crawford is one of the more misunderstood prospects in the minors. Not because he writes tough-to-read teenage angst poetry, but because people draw assumptions based on his last name and position. He is not a speed guy, in fact over that hot 46 game stretch where he’s gotten on base nearly 40% of the time, he’s only attempted 4 steals, and been successful 50% of the time. Doesn’t sound like a burner right? To me he’s more a future leadoff hitter with Dustin Pedroia sort of upside with plus fielding ability at short. Not a superstar, but a fantasy relevant player with on base ability and some pop.
- After a rough first go at pro-ball coming out of the draft in 2016, former Indians second round pick Nolan Jones has really started to turn things around the last few weeks. Over his last 9 games he’s 16 for 36, with 4 doubles, 2 homers , and 11 RBIs. Jones is still a long ways away from establishing significant fantasy hype, but he could be turning a corner, keep an eye out.
- The Orioles Austin Hays continues his epic 2017, as he went 2 for 5 last night, hitting a homer (a grand slam), and driving in 5. Hays just missed out on my Top 100, but will make the update sometime in late August, early September.
- Speaking of Orioles prospects, one time top pitching prospect Hunter Harvey is once again working his way back from injury. This time with the Aberdeen Ironbirds of the New York-Penn League. Harvey started the game, went 2 innings, walking three and striking out three in the process. He also looks like a creep and a half, no joke.
- After a rough couple of outings my top “active” pitching prospect Triston McKenzie rebounded last night going 5 innings, allowing a run, and striking out 8 in the process. I spoke a little about McKenzie, and why I rate him so highly for the Two Strike Approach Podcast with fellow Razz writer Lance yesterday.
- Looks like the Red Sox Michael Chavis is continuing his charge for a universal top 50 spot on many prospect lists. He homered again last night, his 2 second in as many games, and his 5th over his last 10. I’m not going to go too in depth here. I wrote about Chavis on Sunday, so go look there for more on him.
- Goodbye Rhys Hoskins, don’t forget who loved you first on your way to MLB stardom. He potentially ended his decorated MiLB career with a bang last night, going 3 for 5, with a 3 run homer, a double, and 5 RBIs.
**Going to a minor league game? Get in on our crowdsourced scouting video project! Use your phone to shoot at bats, pitches, etc of some of the top prospects, and email them to me at [email protected]**