There are 17 outfielders in MLB.com’s top one-hundred prospect list. Names like Buxton, Taveras, and Springer are some of the top players in baseball who are projected to be future all-stars and the faces of their franchises.
The Milwaukee Brewers outfield prospect, Mitch Haniger, was absent from this list. He didn’t even crack the top-ten end of season Brewers prospect rankings according to MLB.com (he ranked 12th). But, in Haniger the Brewers have a player who can prove everyone wrong.
The Brewers selected, the underrated, Mitch Haniger with the 38th pick of the 2012 MLB draft, a pick they received in compensation for the loss of Prince Fielder. During his senior season at Cal Poly, he showed off his stellar bat. He hit for power and average by batting .346 while hammering 13 homeruns. In the outfield he showed his outstanding arm strength by throwing out nine base-runners. These numbers show that he was a five-tool talent with first-round ability.
After being drafted, Haniger immediately was sent to Wisconsin in the Midwest league. He batted .286 and slugged a homerun, but he was limited to only 49 at-bats due to a knee injury. The next season, Haniger immediately came out swinging. He batted .297 while slugging an impressive .510 in 41 games. These numbers prompted a promotion to high A Brevard County. While his numbers showed decline, he was still able to finish the year with a combined .264 batting average with 11 homeruns. Perhaps what was most impressive was his patience. He showed great plate discipline by walking 64 times in the year and having an on base percentage of .348 for the season.
During the Arizona Fall League, playing with some of the best prospects in the game, Haniger was even better. He tied for fifth in homeruns and led the Arizona Fall league with 24 RBIs in just 25 games. Former scout, Bernie Pleskoff loved his ability while watching him in the Arizona Fall League. He mentioned that his patience helps him “select the right pitch to hit.” He also noted that the only pitches that he ever seems to chase are pitches that climb the ladder up in the zone. He also loved his “excellent defensive instincts and accurate arm.”
This spring Haniger received an invitation with the big club, and he got off to a fast start. In the first game of spring, he homered in his first at-bat. While there is a track record of Brewers being moved along slowly, (see Mat Gamel, Taylor Green, Hunter Morris, etc.) Haniger could move up the ranks quickly. The 23 year old prospect should begin the year at AA Huntsville. If he has success with his bat, he could realistically end the year in Nashville. The Brewers already have a solid group of outfielders at a major league level, but if he continues to produce they will find a way to put him into the heart of their lineup in the near future. Haniger’s trademark patience will hopefully get him through the constant underrating of his talent. Not even making the top ten Brewers prospect rankings last season is hard to believe. His abilities should not only cement himself as a top Brewers prospect this season, but also catapult him in to the top one-hundred rankings by seasons end.
Statistics Provided by Baseball Reference