Haniger debuts with AFL slam, named Player of Week

Haniger debuts with AFL slam, named Player of Week

Haniger debuts with AFL slam, named Player of Week

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- While the Brewers watched three of their fellow National League Central teams qualify for the playoffs -- the Cardinals won the divison, while the Pirates and Reds were the Wild Cards -- they sent six of their top prospects to the Arizona Fall League.

One of them is already delivering impressive results.

Outfielder Mitch Haniger -- the Brewers' 12th-ranked prospect, according to MLB.com -- took the first week of the six-week season by storm, earning Co-Player of the Week honors along with Cubs third baseman/outfielder Kris Bryant, the No. 2 overall pick in June's First-Year Player Draft.

In Haniger's first four games for the Surprise Saguaros, the 22-year-old hit .563 (9-for-16) with seven RBIs, four via a grand slam on Opening Day, and three doubles.

"The first week went really well, but I'm just trying to keep it simple and not think too much," Haniger said Monday. "Hopefully everything will continue to fall into place."

Haniger was a supplemental first-round Draft pick by the Brewers, the 38th overall selection, in 2012 after his junior season at Cal Poly.

He debuted with Class A Wisconsin that year, playing in 14 games and hitting .286 with four doubles and a homer. He returned to the Midwest League to begin 2013 and hit .297 in 41 games before being promoted to Class A Advanced Brevard County of the Florida State League, where he hit .250 in 88 games. He hit 36 doubles, five triples and 11 home runs, and drove in 68 between the two levels.

Haniger is hopeful that a strong showing in the Fall League against all of its strong-armed prospects will help allow him to begin 2014 with the Brewers' Double-A affiliate in Huntsville, Ala.

He first learned the Brewers might send him to Arizona in early August.

"I was really excited about the possibility, but it still wasn't for sure until the rosters were put together," he said. "This is a prestigious league. A lot of good players have played here. I am blessed to be invited."

He has played all three outfield spots thus far, and it looks like the Brewers will put him in center or right field, the latter the most likely choice.

"I have been bouncing around a little," said Haniger, who played the infield early in his career before moving to the outfield in college. "I feel more comfortable in center or right, but I am willing to play wherever they want me."

Haniger has a solid arm, keeping the ball low and finding his cutoff man most of the time. He has not developed a lot of power at the plate yet, though that is expected to increase. He has been known more as a pull hitter, but is working hard to use the entire field, especially the gaps.

He believes he is adjusting to baseball's grind of playing every day, though he played it most of his life. His brother, Jason, was a catcher at Georgia Tech and was drafted by the Pirates in 2008.

"You have to make sure you take advantage of your off-days, relax and maybe get away from the game a little, make sure you have the proper nutrition, maintain your strength," Haniger said.

Haniger's Fall League focus will not be on any one area.

"I just want to become a better player in every facet of the game,'' he said. "Just get better as a whole."

Don Ketchum is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.