SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Keston Hiura is having fun at the plate this fall in Arizona, and it is paying big dividends.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ top prospect, according to MLB Pipeline, has been one of the hottest hitters through two weeks of his first Arizona Fall League season, especially with runners in scoring position.
“I think it is more of just having fun,” Hiura said. “With runners in scoring position, you are looking to drive the ball, hit it hard somewhere. You grow up trying to do that, so just having fun at the plate and relaxing and putting the pressure on the pitcher, not yourself.”
Hiura has been a driving force behind the Peoria Javelinas’ league-leading offense. The Javelinas entered Saturday’s matinee with the Salt River Rafters leading the league in runs scored (63), hits (96), total bases (130), batting average (.294) and RBI (61). Meanwhile, Hiura led the league in RBI with 16, seven more than Boston Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec of the Mesa Solar Sox and Toronto Blue Jays prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Surprise Saguaros.BBE's Arizona Fall League reporter, @joejacquezaz, caught up with @Brewers top prospect @Kestdaddy about his success with Peoria so far.Click To Tweet
The 22-year-old Hiura collected two more hits and added to his league leading RBI total on Saturday with a run-scoring double in the third inning, helping Peoria beat Salt River, 6-5 at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Saturday’s performance was not Hiura’s only highlight filled game of the fall. He collected a league game-high five RBI on Oct. 16 with a three-run triple and a two-run home run. In addition, he broke a 1-1 tie against Glendale on Oct. 10 with a grand slam in the seventh inning and on Opening Day against Glendale, Hiura helped his team win 8-7 with a three-run double.
Instead of trying to focus on coming up with a big hit or swinging for the fences, Hiura has approached each fall league at-bat with a simple mindset.
“Being able to put the ball in play more often,” Hiura said. “I have been fortunate to get a few infield singles, but with pitchers throwing their A stuff and hitting their spots and trying to get you out with two strikes, definitely putting the ball in the play and making them get you out instead of giving them the outs.”
Hiura, who has collected at least three RBI in four games this fall, is also the No. 2 second base prospect according to MLB Pipeline, behind only San Diego Padres prospect Luis Urias.
Practice makes perfect
So while he has had plenty of success at the plate this fall, Hiura came to Arizona to get more reps at second base after a right elbow injury limited him to designated hitter duties during the early portion of the 2018 minor league season. He said he is working on everything, adding that in-game reps are the most important piece.
“Rhythm, being able to throw from different arm angles, eliminating errors, making routine plays and doing the occasional tough play,” Hiura said.
Hiura has worked on a few specific techniques to better his defense at second with the Javelinas’ infield coordinator.
“(We’ve been) working on double play feeds, transfers, footwork, being able to move towards the ball and throw in the right direction and more fine tuning,” Hiura said. “It is more about getting in-game reps and trying to take advantage of that.”
Ultimately, Hiura knows that all the little things add up when playing defense at any position, let alone second base. The Valencia, California native said his defense has improved tremendously from the end of the minor league season to now but knows he still has a lot to work on before reaching the big leagues, despite the organization having him on the fast track to reach the big league club.
“I am out here with a bunch of talented players and we are learning from each other,” Hiura said. “I still think I have a lot to learn and a lot to perfect through out my time here and the spring.”