Brewers prospect Dubon turning heads early
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
PHOENIX--Although Mauricio Dubon is the latest prospect to join the Milwaukee Brewers organization, he hasn’t had to wait long to show what he can do.
The 22-year-old shortstop, acquired from the Boston Red Sox early last December as part of the Tyler Thornburg trade, has already logged 16 1/3 innings for the Brewers in Cactus League play despite not being part of major league camp.
Dubon was part of a group of upper-echelon prospects who took part in early camp, and beginning with the Brewers’ spring exhibition opener against UW-Milwaukee has been a consistent late-inning replacement. Third baseman Lucas Erceg has been another, and on Monday he made a huge impression with a two-homer game against Cleveland.
Such experience is invaluable for prospects like Dubon and Erceg and the Brewers’ brass.
"Definitely, it’s a benefit both to them and the staff, just to kind of get the nerves out of the way, get them exposed to the major league staff," farm director Tom Flanagan said on Monday. Get them the experience of being here. Even if they don’t get in the games, they learn a lot just being around and seeing it. The staff’s very good with them, educating the players,
"It’s great experience for them."
While the Brewers landed their starting third baseman in the Thornburg trade in Travis Shaw, they’re also happy about adding Dubon to the ever-growing list of highly touted middle-infield prospects in the minor leagues. Dubon hit a combined .323 with six home runs, 69 runs batted in and an .840 OPS in 124 games split between Boston’s advanced Class A affiliate and Class AA affiliate in 2016.
"Very excited," Flanagan said. "I know the way our scouts and everybody spoke about him when we acquired him, that was exciting. And then just seeing him and meeting him and talking to him, he’s very, very impressive.
"He’s beyond his years, for certain. Then obviously athletically, just watching him defensively, he’s shined so far playing a great shortstop both on the back fields and (on the major league side). He handles the bat well. He’s definitely a positive addition for us.
"We’re excited to have him."
A native of Honduras, Dubon came to the United States at age 15 and settled in Sacramento, Calif. A Christian missionary baseball group, Impact International Baseball Academy, helped facilitate his move with the blessing of his parents, and now he seeks to become the first native Honduran born and raised in the country to make it to the major leagues.
"It was interesting in the beginning," Dubon said. "New culture, new environment and everything. It was a little challenging. I knew English before, but not as good as I know it now. It was missing my family more than anything else.
"I knew I had a great chance, a great opportunity to be here. Now I’m taking advantage of this."
Boston drafted Dubon in the 26th round in 2013, and in 330 games since then he’s hit .306 with a .356 on-base percentage and OPS of .765. At 6 foot and 160 pounds he is far from physically imposing, but his skills are considered superlative.
He’ll likely open the season as Class AA Biloxi’s starting shortstop.
"That was good, knowing that as a 26th-round pick, the odds are not easy for me," he said. "But no matter what, baseball is the same everywhere you go. Baseball doesn’t care if you were a first-rounder or a 30th-rounder—as long as you play the game the right way, you’ll have a shot."
Dubon faced a road block at the major league level in Boston with Xander Bogaerts at shortstop and Dustin Pedroia at second base. In Milwaukee, Orlando Arcia and Jonathan Villar combine to form what projects to be a pretty good combination up the middle for at least the next few years.
But versatility is the buzzword in the Brewers organization these days. Flanagan said Dubon will see the bulk of his time at shortstop this season, but that he’ll see some time at second as well. Isan Diaz, Milwaukee’s minor league player of the year in 2016, did the same thing at Class A Wisconsin. Further demonstrating his athleticism, Dubon played a little outfield in the Arizona Fall League.
"I’m prepared," he said. "Whatever gets me up there, I’ll do it."
Dubon has looked every bit the part of a future major league shortstop in his Cactus League opportunities, flashing good range and a strong arm. He’s hitting just .167 with an RBI and a run scored in six at-bats, but has still left a positive impression with more opportunities on tap as Villar and Hernan Perez head off to the World Baseball Classic.
"I probably have a better feel for him as a person," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Dubon.
"I think he’s a great kid. If you talk to him, he’s really fun to talk to. Interesting kid. Smart. Baseball smart. He’s got a good foundation. He’s still going to grow. He’s going to get bigger and stronger.
"He’s represented himself well here."