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MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Athletic Haniger shows why he's on fast track in Arizona

Athletic Haniger shows why he's on fast track in Arizona

Athletic Haniger shows why he's on fast track in Arizona

It's obvious why the Brewers and their fans are excited about outfield prospect Mitch Haniger.

Haniger was the Brewers' first-round supplemental selection in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. His pick was compensation for Detroit signing Prince Fielder. While Haniger isn't Fielder, he has some intriguing power and overall hitting tools.

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Haniger was a star at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose, Calif. He played both baseball and football, and was so good that several college programs recruited him aggressively.

After high school, the Mets selected him in the 2009 Draft, but Haniger decided instead to play baseball in college. He chose to attend California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Calif., where he had an outstanding, award-winning career.

Haniger -- the Brewers' 12th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com -- is a complete athlete. He can hit, hit with power, and play very solid defense with a strong and accurate arm. Speed is the weakest of his five tools.

I have been watching Haniger regularly in the Arizona Fall League. He was voted the Co-Player of the Week following the first week of play. He and Cubs infielder Kris Bryant had outstanding offensive starts to the season.

Haniger has a wide stance at the plate. His bat is held high, and his hands get through the ball with enough quickness to gain backspin and distance.

At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Haniger has excellent proportion to his frame.

Patience and maturity are major components of Haniger's offensive game. He sees lots of pitches. He knows how to take a walk. He can also foul off pitches, deepening the workload of the pitcher while selecting the right pitch to hit.

When he does swing, he makes good contact.

If there is one area of weakness, I have noticed that Haniger has some adjustments to make on high-velocity pitches. High, hard fastballs up and in are really the only type of pitches that tempt his patience.

That said, Haniger has the ability to feast on mediocre pitching. He won't miss.

Haniger is still refining his game regarding his hitting timing at this early stage of his career. But when he connects, the power is evident. Early in the Arizona Fall League, Haniger is among the league's hitting leaders, with two homers and 13 RBIs in his first 15 games.

The right-handed-hitting Haniger has completed two seasons in the Brewers' system. He has a career .266 batting average, covering 601 plate appearances between Class A Wisconsin and Class A Advanced Brevard County.

Haniger's rookie season was spent with Wisconsin in the Midwest League. He got his first taste of professional baseball by playing 14 games and going to the plate only 58 times. He had four doubles and a home run among his 14 hits on the way to a .286 batting average.

This past season, Haniger returned to Wisconsin before he was promoted to Brevard County, where he hit .250 in 88 games. Combined, he hit 36 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs. He also stole nine bases.

Defensively, Haniger profiles best as a center fielder. He can offer a bat along with excellent defensive instincts, and a very strong and accurate arm. Does he have enough speed to play center? That may be the only question. I believe he does. He won't close on balls quickly, but he'll take good routes. What he lacks in speed, he makes up for in his ability to catch and throw the ball at an above-average level.

Should he not offer enough speed to play center, he will be good as a corner outfielder, as long as his power continues to develop. He has right-field arm strength.

Haniger is moving quickly in the Brewers' system. He appears to be on a fast track.

He will continue to refine his hitting mechanics, offering his team the talent, maturity and baseball instincts they can use in the middle of the batting order.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff; on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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