Q&A: Mitch Haniger, Milwaukee Brewers Outfield Prospect

Mitch Haniger had an outstanding first professional season. The Milwaukee Brewers outfield prospect banged out 52 extra-base hits between two levels. That number is even more impressive given that two-thirds of his at bats came in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Overall, the 23-year-old [as of December] hit .264/.348/.431.

Originally drafted in 2009 by the Mets out of high school, Haniger opted to play college ball at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. In his junior season at Cal Poly, he hit .346 with a 1.064 OPS. Milwaukee then selected him 38th overall.

Haniger finished up his 2013 campaign in the Arizona Fall League with the Surprise Saguaros. He discussed his game, and the decision to bypass the Mets, during the last week of the AFL season.

Haniger on his hitting approach: “My approach is pretty complex. It always depends on the situation. Are there are runners on? What kind of game is it? I’m also big on scouting reports. I want to try to find out how the pitcher likes to attack you. That impacts what I’m going to be looking for. I was already doing that when I was at Cal Poly.

“I’ve made small adjustments, like trying to make my swing as short as possible. But nothing really huge. I have pretty much the same mechanics I did in college. My setup is pretty standard.

“I think [my plate discipline] is pretty good. Obviously, there’s always going to be room for improvement, but I like where I’m at right now. Hopefully I can continue to get better.”

On talking hitting with teammates: “We talk a little bit here [in the AFL], mostly in game, but we haven’t gotten into anything really in depth. When I talk hitting, it’s usually with my buddies back home who I’ve played with for awhile, or guys I’ve played with for multiple seasons. We’ll talk about approaches, or I‘ll ask guys, ‘What were you looking for in that situation?’ I like to hear what other guys’ thought processes are, and I’ll pick and choose from that. You can always learn from other people.”

On working with Surprise hitting coach Rich Gedman: “I think it’s good to have a pair of fresh eyes on you. Rich had never seen me hit before, and he’s said some helpful things to me. He mostly says to try to keep everything simple, focus on each game and each at bat and go hard every time I’m out there.

“I think certain organizations have slightly different thought processes than other teams, but as far as I can tell from talking to Rich, the Red Sox do it the same way [the Brewers] do. The message we get is to take our walks, but at the same time, you’re up there looking to swing the bat.”

On playing in the AFL: “[The Brewers] didn’t give me any specific reasons, they just told me they wanted me to play here. I’m assuming it was to get more at bats, and more playing time, against some good competition.

“I can get better at every little part of the game. I feel my defense has been good, and I’ve been pretty good at the plate, but I can fine tune every aspect. I’ve improved a lot since signing, but there’s a lot of room to grow.”

On going to Cal Poly instead of signing with the Mets:
“Coming out of high school, I didn’t sign because I wanted more money than they would offer. They also hadn’t signed their first- and second-round picks. I thought I should go to college, play three years there and hopefully I’d get drafted higher.

“Cal Poly is a great school and the location was awesome for me. It was just far enough away from home. The coaching staff there was great. I learned a lot from them. Our head coach — coach [Larry] Lee — was our hitting coach, and he really helped me. He’s a big reason I chose to go there, and he taught me a lot about hitting.”

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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