MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers didn't see UC Irvine's Keston Hiura throw this season, but they saw him hit. They saw him hit a lot.Limited to designated hitter duty by a right elbow injury that may or may not require Tommy John surgery, Hiura impressed enough at the plate that the
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers didn't see UC Irvine's Keston Hiura throw this season, but they saw him hit. They saw him hit a lot.
Limited to designated hitter duty by a right elbow injury that may or may not require Tommy John surgery, Hiura impressed enough at the plate that the Brewers made the sweet-swinging second baseman the ninth overall pick in the MLB Draft on Monday. It was the first of Milwaukee's three selections on Day 1 of the Draft.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
• Brewers' No. 34 overall: Tristen Lutz
"He's the best college hitter in the country," said Wynn Pelzer, the Brewers' area scout for Southern California. "That's what he showed all through the spring. It was a pleasure for me as a scout to go watch this guy perform offensively. ... He's a premium bat at a premium position, and he's going to be valuable for the Brewers down the road."
How far down the road? That is to be determined.
Hiura suffered a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow last April, and he re-injured it in November. He shut down throwing, had a PRP injection in January to speed healing and said he was able to hit pain-free throughout his junior season at UC Irvine.
In 199 at-bats for the Anteaters this season, Hiura hit .442 with a 1.260 OPS and eight home runs. He had more walks (50) than strikeouts (38).
"You know, I got in this position I am because of my bat," said Hiura. "My goal was to start throwing again, but I didn't want to potentially hurt myself by rushing back into it and taking away from swinging. I knew my bat would give me the best opportunity to succeed in the Draft."
• Brewers' No. 46 overall: Caden Lemons
Hiura's advisors at The Legacy Agency shared medical imaging with the Brewers and other clubs in the runup to the Draft, while Pelzer employed video to scout Hiura's pre-injury defense. He manned shortstop in high school outside Los Angeles before playing second base and some outfield at UC Irvine.
Now that they have drafted him, Brewers medical officials can get more hands-on in prescribing surgical versus non-surgical options.
"I wouldn't say we know for sure either way on that," said Brewers amateur scouting director Tod Johnson. "We've done a lot of work to try and understand that as best we can with what we are allowed to do and talk about with players prior to acquisition. So right now, we're not 100 percent sure either way. But I don't know that surgery is the first option, necessarily, either."
Said Milwaukee GM David Stearns: "What we do know is we've got a premium bat at a premium position, and that's very exciting. If surgery becomes a reality, then, yes, it would be an extended absence. That is something that we're prepared to deal with."
The ninth overall pick carries an assigned value of $4.57 million, part of the Brewers' pool of $10,447,700 to spend on their selections through the 10th round before incurring penalties. Milwaukee's spending pool this season is sixth-highest of the 30 clubs.
This year marks only the second time the Brewers had the ninth overall pick. In 1995, they used that selection for USC outfielder Geoff Jenkins, who went on to play parts of 10 seasons in Milwaukee.
The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 11:30 a.m. CT, with exclusive coverage beginning at 12 p.m. CT.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast.