Four days ago the Arizona Diamondbacks promoted outfielder Mitch Haniger to the major league roster. It's going well so far: 7-for-16 with two doubles and a triple, three walks, five strikeouts. This is a continuation: he was hitting a combined .325/.423/.588 between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A El Paso, with 32 doubles, 24 homers, 64 walks, and 93 strikeouts in 425 at-bats. He's been one of the most dangerous hitters in the minors this year, yet he didn't rank highly on most pre-season prospect lists. Let's take a look.
Haniger was a compensation round pick in 2012 from Cal Poly by the Milwaukee Brewers. He was a decent but unspectacular performer in their system, hitting .264/.348/.431 in A-ball in 2013, then suffering through injuries in 2014 and being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Here's his comment from the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book:
Mitch Haniger, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 180 DOB: December 23, 1990
2013: Grade B-; 2014: Grade C+
Arizona acquired Mitch Haniger from the Brewers last summer for Gerardo Parra. He is very much a tweener type, not running well enough to play center for most teams but not having the pure power teams look for in a corner outfielder. His production has been pretty mediocre for a couple of years now, not terrible but not good enough to force his way into a job. The trade seemed to liven him up, although he missed three weeks with an arm injury. He needs a strong season to avoid getting lost in the shuffle of right-handed hitting minor league outfielders. Grade C+.
Haniger played 104 games in 2015, hitting well in High-A (.332/.381/.619) but hitting .281/.351/.379 in Double-A, which wasn't horrible but was nothing special for a 24-year-old in his second look at that level. I had him as a Grade C entering 2016 but cut him from the final edition of the book for space reasons, thinking he had topped out.
That was a mistake. As noted, he's been terrific this year.
Early in his career Haniger was a strict pull hitter, showing very good power to left field but struggling to handle pitches off the plate and not living up to his full potential. He’s made some adjustments in 2016, going to the opposite field much more often. For example, Haniger hit 11 home runs in 2014 and 13 in 2015; ALL of them were hit to left field.
In 2016 he’s hit 24 home runs in the minors 13 to left field, one to center, and 10 to right field. He has also improved his plate discipline and is drawing more walks this year.
In 2014 and 2015 Haniger hit lefties well, handling both fastballs and breaking balls, but had problems with right-handed pitching, chasing breaking pitches outside the strike zone too often against right-handers. In 2016 he has continued to destroy left-handers but is hitting right-handers almost as well now, thanks to a better eye for the strike zone and the new willingness to hit the ball the opposite way when needed. .
Haniger has average running speed but is not a huge stolen base threat, though he will take an extra base aggressively. He can play all three outfield positions. He has good defensive instincts and makes the most of his strong, accurate throwing arm. Right field is his best position and he is very good there, but he’s decent in both left and center field.
He's 25 now, not young as prospects go, but he's made real adjustments this season and so far pitchers haven't counter-adjusted. It is a tough year in Arizona but Haniger is one of the bright spots of the season, and they have nothing left to lose by letting him play. Assuming he is still rookie-eligible for 2017, he'd rate a Grade B- at present.