The Milwaukee Brewers had once hoped that Mitch Haniger would join Ryan Braun in their outfield to form a dynamic power-hitting duo. A slow start to his career, a few injury setbacks, and a new team have seen Haniger’s career take a different path. He finally seems to be putting it all together this year with the Reno Aces.
Haniger’s professional career began when he was selected 38th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft. The 6-foot-2, 215 pound starting centerfielder for the Cal Poly Mustangs had a fantastic final collegiate season, hitting .346 with 18 doubles and 13 home runs all while playing fantastic defense. He came into the pros looking poised to be fast-tracked to the major leagues behind an advanced bat and impressive power.
He skipped over Rookie Ball, heading right to the Midwest League, adding to the belief that he had the ability to become a Brewer rather quickly. It didn’t quite turn out that way.
He has never played a full season at one level, hopping around to different parks and pitching, seemingly never being able to dial in on that monster power the Brewers expected when they drafted him. His 2013 season split between Low and High-A was nice (.264/.348/.431 with 36 doubles and 11 home runs) but a far cry from the numbers a then 22-year-old first-rounder should be producing.
Haniger headed to spring training in 2014 and impressed everyone, going 8-for-16 with two home runs in ten games, walking two more times than he struck out. He opened eyes around prospect heads defensively, as Baseball America rated him the Brewers’ third-best prospect with the best arm in the system. It was full speed ahead for Haniger, and the sky seemed the limit as he was set to open the season in Double-A.
Wrist injuries derailed his season, as he fought through said injury to play 67 uninspiring games for the Brewers. On July 31, Milwaukee decided to part ways with their top outfield prospect, shipping him off to Arizona for Gerardo Parra. Haniger wouldn’t even suit up for the Diamondbacks organization until the middle of August, and then wound up playing just 12 games for his new team.
Perhaps a change of scenery would be all that he needed.
After returning to big league spring training once again, this time for the Diamondbacks, Haniger enjoyed a fine 2015 split between High-A and Double-A. He slashed .310/.368/.515 with 13 home runs. It was nothing compared to the 2016 season he had in store.
Haniger started 2016 where he finished 2015, in Double-A Mobile. A June 10 promotion to Triple-A has seen a 47-game run of some of the most unbelievable baseball the minors has seen played this season. Haniger hit in the first nine games of his Reno Aces debut, but his last nine games have been even better than that.
He is scorching hot over the past two weeks and has exploded for the power that seemingly took a few extra years to find as a pro. Currently amid a nine-game hitting streak, he is 19-for-36 (a .527 average) with six home runs (including consecutive two-home run games) and five doubles.
In the first 46 games of his career in the PCL, he is slashing .390/.456/.802 for a 1.258 OPS, 19 home runs (24 on the year between two levels) and 13 doubles (27 on the year). He is striking out at a bit higher rate for him (21.4 percent), but on the season, he is also walking 12.1 percent of the time. His combined 82-to-53 strikeout-to-walk rate is very respectable for a power bat in today’s game, where striking out has seemingly become a minor, secondary concern.
Has he been lucky with a .430 BABIP? Sure, but this isn’t a prospect that came out of nowhere. This is the Mitch Haniger that was drafted by the Brewers, who’s minor league career was once expected to be swift and short.
For more on the rise of one of the Diamondbacks more exciting outfield prospects, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full story by clicking on the link below.