The last time the Red Sox took a college bat in the first round, it went decently well. That’s just my opinion, at least. That was, of course, a couple years ago when they selected Andrew Benintendi with the seventh overall pick. They won’t be picking quite so high in this June’s draft, but according to Keith Law’s first mock draft, they’ll be going down the same road.
In that mock, ESPN’s prospect guru has the Red Sox selecting Keston Hiura, out of the University of California-Irvine, with the 24th pick in the 2017 draft..
Hiura is a really interesting name in this draft, and if he does end up going in the first round it will be because of his bat. He really started to make a name for himself in his senior year of high school, but didn’t end up getting drafted at that point. He has started since day one at UC-Irvine, splitting time between the outfield, infield and designated hitter.
Last season, Hiura’s sophomore year, he was playing an April game in center field when he made a throw towards home plate and felt something funny in his arm. As he describes it, it wasn’t pain so much as a foreign feeling. He went back out in the next inning, but left during warm ups and was eventually diagnosed with a sprained UCL. He hasn’t played defense since, although he did attempt to play some second base during fall ball and re-injured himself turning a double play.
Whether or not his elbow is fully healthy by draft time, teams may not want to pass up on this bat. According to one of his coaches (an admittedly biased source), Hiurta is the best pure hitter in the country. That may be an exaggeration, but he shows a strong feel for hitting from the left side and has shown more power this season.
For what it’s worth, Hiurta sees his future position as second base. That is where he played in high school before converting to the outfield for college. In their May 4 top 200 draft prospect ranking, Baseball America had Hiurta as the number 20 prospect in the draft. You can see some highlights here.