The Milwaukee Brewers made UC Irvine second baseman Keston Hiura the ninth overall pick in Major League Baseball’s first year player draft on Monday. They made the selection despite an elbow injury that has prevented Hiura from playing in the field all spring.
What nobody seems to know for sure, Hiura included, is whether he will need Tommy John surgery that might delay his pro debut, possibly for a full year. Hiura told reporters Monday night the goal is to avoid the surgery, but they won’t know until he undergoes another MRI.
The Brewers say they examined the medicals on Hiura as much as a team is allowed prior to the draft and they were confident the elbow issue wasn’t significant enough to pass on drafting him.
Hiura did receive a platelet-enriched plasma injection in January, which is often used to help attempt to avoid Tommy John surgery. Brewers general manager David Stearns said, “If surgery becomes a reality, it would become an extended absence, and that is something we’re prepared to deal with.”
Hirua first injured his elbow in April 2016 and aggravated it again in November, leading to the decision to have the PRP injection and avoid playing in the field this spring. The initial diagnosis was a partial tear of the UCL in the elbow.
The elbow issue certainly didn’t affect his performance as a hitter. As a junior at UC Irvine this past season, Hiura hit .442 with a .567 on-base percentage and .693 slugging percentage. He had eight home runs and the Brewers believe his power numbers will continue to grow.
Brewers area scout for Southern California, Wynn Pelzer said it was a challenge to scout a player who wasn’t able to play in the field all season but believes Hiura’s offensive upside was too high to ignore.
The Brewers stuck to offense with their next pick, number 34 (Competitive Balance Round A), when they took Tristen Lutz, a prep outfielder from Arlington, Texas. Lutz has plenty of power from the right side of the plate, clubbing 10 home runs in 95 at-bats this season. He hit .432 and played center field on his high school team, but probably projects as a corner outfielder.
In the second round (46th overall pick), the Brewers selected prep right-handed pitcher Caden Lemons from Vestavia Hills, Alabama. The 6’6, 175 pound Lemons went 7-1 with a 1.74 ERA during his senior season, striking out 79 hitters in 62 innings. His fastball has been clocked in the high 90’s.
Lemons does have a scholarship to Ole Miss.
The Draft continues with rounds 3 through 10 on Tuesday.