March 21, 2017

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Keon Broxton went from confused to confident at the plate.

The 26-year-old Milwaukee Brewers center fielder is thinking that how he ended 2016 will carry over into this season.

''I wouldn't quite say a breakout year, but definitely something that's more of a polished player this year,'' Broxton said Tuesday. ''I'm just trying to build off last year and everything that happened last year. I'm just trying to move forward and be more consistent at the plate and getting better reads in the outfield, just progressing my game all around.''

Broxton, who is listed at 6-3, 200 pounds, is a rare combination of speed and power.

''That's definitely one of my goals this year is go 20-30,'' Broxton said.

He hit nine home runs and stole 23 bases in 75 games last year. Broxton is hitting .366 with three home runs in 15 exhibition games after going 1 for 3 in the Brewers' 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

''I try to bring everything into the game as much as possible - power, speed, throwing arm, baserunning, everything,'' Broxton said. ''I just try to be a complete player. I've still got a lot of things to work on.''

Broxton made the Brewers' opening day roster last year, but was optioned April 16 to Triple-A Nashville. He did not get a hit in his first 24 big league at-bats before a May 25 bunt single. He was 8 for 64 (.125) when he was demoted July 3 for a third time.

When Broxton returned July 25, he took off. He hit .294 with eight home runs in 49 games before his season ended Sept. 16 when he broke his right wrist running into the Wrigley Field wall.

''I made a bunch of changes in my stance and I got really comfortable with it,'' Broxton said of his second-half splurge. ''My confidence is what really changed when I came back up. It definitely showed in my performance.

''You've got to play this game with a little bit of confidence. You've got to believe in yourself. The last time I came up that's what I did.''

He hit .242 with a .354 on-base percentage and .430 slugging percentage for the season. While he drew walks in 14.8 percent of his plate-appearances, he struck out 36.1 percent of the time.

''Cutting down on strikeouts, trying to put more balls in play,'' Broxton said, describing how he wants to improve this year. ''That's No. 1, for sure, for me.''

Manager Craig Counsell is exploring opening the season with speedsters Jonathan Villar, who led the majors with 62 stolen bases last year, and Broxton at the top of the order.

Broxton had a .373 average on balls in play last season.

''Looking at stats, balls I put in play, the majority of them are hits,'' he said. ''I figure if I put in play at least 50 of the balls out of my 100 strikeouts last year, at least 30 or 20 of them have got to be hits or somewhere around there. I'm just looking on making more contact.''

Milwaukee catcher Manny Pina hit a three-run homer. Pina has three home runs and eight RBIs in his past five games.

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