WASHINGTON — For every Manny Machado or Noah Syndergaard rumor, there’s a Keston Hiura on the other side, a top JJ Watt Women’s Jersey prospect waiting to see what the looming non-waiver Trade Deadline sends rippling through the Minor Leagues. In a Double-A Biloxi clubhouse teeming with top prospects, players have made it a running joke.
Someone gets pulled from a game?
WASHINGTON — For every Manny Machado or Noah Syndergaard rumor, there’s a Keston Hiura on the other side, a top prospect waiting to see what the looming non-waiver Trade Deadline sends rippling through the Minor Leagues. In a Double-A Biloxi clubhouse teeming with top prospects, players have made it a running joke.
Someone gets pulled from a game?
He’s getting traded.
Manager Mike Guerrero steps foot in the clubhouse?
Someone’s about to be gone.
:: 2018 Futures Game coverage ::
“It’s just all fun and games,” said Hiura, Milwaukee’s top prospect per MLB Pipeline (No. 30 in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100), and thus, the subject of some of those rumors. “I think that’s how people cope with it and relax a little.”
Hiura was relaxed on Sunday, though he struck out in both of his at-bats as the designated hitter for the U.S. team in a 10-6 win over the World squad in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at Nationals Park. It was a who’s who of baseball’s future, stocked with players who can relate to Hiura’s familiarity with trade rumors.
While his name has not been mentioned much in the Machado derby — Machado, the Orioles shortstop, is a free agent at season’s end, and the Brewers almost certainly wouldn’t part with a player of Hiura’s caliber for a rental — he has surfaced in discussions about potential trade pieces with more club control. Think Jacob deGrom or Syndergaard, if the Mets opt to trade one of their top arms, and the Brewers opt to go big to fortify their starting pitching.
The other Brewers prospect in the Futures Game, right-hander Luis Ortiz (Brewers’ No. 4 prospect), has reportedly been part of the Machado talks. But the Orioles are believed to want Major League pitching in the deal, and Ortiz has been pitching for Biloxi.
Video: WLD@USA: Ortiz gets Diaz to ground out to end 9th
“There’s a lot of talk,” said Hiura. “With all the trade talk, we’ve been joking around with each other that someone’s going to be gone soon. But it’s been fairly easy for me to focus. Whatever happens behind the scenes, I can’t control that.
“Family-wise, my dad always freaks out a little when he gets a text from me. He’s like, ‘Did you get traded or something?’ So there’s a lot of talk, but I’ve been able to handle it pretty well.”
Hiura has handled everything pretty well since the Brewers made him the ninth overall pick in the 2017 Draft. Hiura, a hitting prodigy out of UC Irvine, was mostly limited to DH duty last year and at the start of this season over concerns about his right elbow, but he has avoided surgery and has played 43 games at second base between advanced Class A Carolina and Biloxi while slashing a robust .308/.370/.498.
Recently, Hiura missed about a week with a sprained thumb after tangling with a first baseman, but he reported for Futures Game duty at 100 percent, he said.
“I’ve never seen anybody hit like him,” said Ortiz. “There’s only one guy probably — [Atlanta Braves All-Star] Ozzie Albies. I faced him in 2016 and he’s by far one of the best hitters I’ve seen, and Keston reminds me of him. He’s short to the ball and he just doesn’t miss.”
Ryan Braun (2006) and Corey Ray (2017) are the only other players to participate in the Futures Game the year after being drafted by the Brewers. Hiura’s path so far is most similar to Braun’s, who made it to Double-A midway through his first full professional season.
“It’s been a quick 13-14 months. There’s been a lot to it,” Hiura said. “Playing at four different levels in that time, getting adjusted to the professional baseball lifestyle. It’s been interesting. I’ve learned a lot about myself in the last year.
“I always felt I was ready to compete with the best around. Being able to move up quickly in the system is definitely something I wanted to work toward. I was always up to the challenge.”
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.