Continuing along with our winter prospect profiles, we drift back to the outfield, where there is plenty of talent to be found, especially on the lower levels of the farm.
Whenever the scouts of the Dodgers notice pure athleticism, they never hesitate to snag the best available players regardless of how deep they are at any given position on any level.
Outfielder Niko Hulsizer is definitely one of those pure athletes the Dodgers couldn’t resist.
During his college days at Morehead State, the 6-foot-2, 200-pounder found some quick fame on Twitter when he showed the world he could easily handle 545 lbs. on the dead lift.
Despite the impressive feat, it was four months before the deadlift when he flashed to the world his true baseball power.
Hulsizer rocketed 19 long balls in the first round, 16 in the second, and blasted 17 in the final round to secure the trophy. While his intentions were surely winning, he noted that one of his goals was to give Morehead State a little bit of face time.
“It felt great. I really came out here to compete and put my team on the map and spread the word about our school. It’s amazing. I’m still in shock that it happened,” Hulsizer said.
During his college days, Hulsizer’s offensive numbers were completely off the chain.
Scouts began to notice him as a sophomore at Morehead when he was voted the 2017 Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year after setting conference records for home runs (27), total bases (193) and being named to five All-American teams. Additionally, he sported a .349 average and drove in 82 runs.
Hulsizer, a Pennsylvania native and a product of Governor Mifflin High School, saw his stock diminish a bit when he suffered a broken hand during his junior campaign in 2018. Still, he hit .320 with 11 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs, 38 RBI and a 1.049 OPS, leading Morehead State to the NCAA Tournament.
Following the season, the Dodgers selected the right-handed hitting Hulsizer in the 18th round of the draft.
Niko said that he knew Los Angeles had a some interest in him before the selection was actually made. Marty Lamb, a senior scout for the Dodgers, scouted 2003 first-rounder Chad Billingsley and knew the Reading, PA area well.
“They’re one of the teams I wanted to play for,” Hulsizer explained shortly after being drafted. “When I was younger, I always could picture myself wearing their uniform. I’ve been compared to Yasiel Puig, who’s somebody I really like and follow.”
Hulsizer might not have the arm strength of Puig, but all of his other tools are comparable. He’s quick on his feet, has exceptional range, and can handle his glove. Obviously, he has the ability to hit for both average and power.
Immediately after being drafted, Hulsizer was ushered to the Pioneer league in Ogden, foregoing time in the AZL League, which is often the norm for first-year farmhands. For the Raptors, he put up an impressive .957 OPS, slashing .281/.426/.531 with nine homers, 13 doubles and 32 RBI in just 48 games.
He also swiped 12 of 14 bases.
Defensively, the 22-year-old Hulsizer is currently being groomed as a right fielder, but there’s no reason to think he couldn’t handle duties at any of the three outfield spots. Last year for Ogden, he played 33 games in right and six games in left.
Looking ahead, although Niko’s still listed on the Ogden roster, there may be a reasonable chance he begins his 2019 campaign with Low-A Great Lakes.