Milwaukee Brewers rookie outfielder Keon Broxton is having an excellent spring: through 27 at-bats he's hitting .333/.500/.370 with nine walks, eight strikeouts, and six stolen bases. He looks to have a lock on a roster spot and more than one reader has asked for an updated take on him.
Broxton was originally drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the third round in 2009 from Santa Fe Junior College in Florida. He struggled initially at the lower levels; the first time I saw him play was in the Midwest League in 2010. He hit just .228/.316/.360 with an unsightly 172 strikeouts in 531 at-bats, but he also drew 65 walks. His tools were obvious including speed and raw power but he was quite unrefined.
He made very slow, gradual progress through the Arizona system, but seemed to hit a wall when reaching Double-A in 2013. He was sold to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the spring of 2014 and the switch in systems seemed to help; he hit .275/.369/.484 with 25 steals and 15 homers in Double-A in 2014, then followed with a .273/.357/.438 combined line last year in Double-A and Triple-A.
Here is the comment from the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Keon Broxton, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 195 DOB: May 7, 1990
The Brewers picked up Keon Broxton in mid-December 2015 from the Pirates in the Jason Rogers trade. Broxton has been hanging around prospect lists for years. He is quite fast and has learned to use that speed properly both on the bases and in the outfield. He’s got some power and will take a walk, but his strikeout rates are quite high and he’s not going to hit for much of an average against big league pitching. That said, if he can manage to hit .250, his speed, defense, and occasional power could keep him employed on someone’s bench for some time. He’s still a Grade C prospect but he has some tools and has shown that he can deploy them often enough to be rather interesting.
That was written a few weeks ago and seems just a bit too muted right now. With the way he looks this spring, I'd go up to a C+. Compared to where he was five years ago, Broxton has made substantial progress. He runs better routes and makes better use of his speed in the outfield as well as on the bases. He gets to his power more often.
His walk rates have always been decent but it took time to cut the strikeouts down and keep his average at a sufficient level against advanced pitching. The whiff rate remains elevated but I'm a little more confident in his ability to manage an average in the .240-.250 range. Add that to the walks and occasional pop and you have a useful asset.
Many raw tools players fail to develop, but Broxton has improved his skills enough to make him a viable player. The main negative is age at 25, but that's just one factor and not a reason to dismiss his chances. Lorenzo Cain was a similar tools guy who didn't figure out what he was doing until age 28.
No, I'm not saying that Broxton will be Cain. There's still too much doubt about the bat to project Broxton as a starter, but a solid career as a role player who can do several things seems quite plausible.