For the second time this season, Brewers’ first baseman Keston Hiura has been optioned to the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate Nashville Sounds. Hiura is currently hitting a woeful .130/.217/.222 with one home run and five RBI. He also is the owner of a -1.3 WAR and a negative defensive runs saved rating.
Keston Hiura’s Struggles Are Not New
Keston Hiura entered the 2020 season with a large load of expectations. However, Hiura, like many players in baseball, struggled in the shortened season. He hit .212/..297/.410 with 13 home runs and 32 RBI. He also led the NL in strikeouts with 85.
The struggles were not uncommon on the Brewers’ roster. Christian Yelich and Omar Narvaez, in particular, struggled last season. In addition, Justin Smoak and Logan Morrison, who started the season with the Brewers, were DFA’ed before the season ended due to lack of production.
A Breakout Rookie Season
Keston Hiura’s expectations in 2020 were the result of a breakout rookie season in 2019. After he was called up, Hiura lit the Majors on fire, hitting .303/.368/.570 with 19 home runs and 49 RBI.
Hiura struggled mightily in the field and struck out over 100 times in 2019. Both of these issues contributed to his down year in 2020 and led the Brewers to sign Kolten Wong to play second base. Hiura moved to first base to make room for Wong.
A Glimpse Into Hiura’s Struggles
For a long time, many fans wondered what had happened to the 2019 version of Keston Hiura. Earlier this year, it was revealed that his mother is battling cancer and is undergoing treatment. Hiura shaved his head in solidarity with his mom, who is losing her hair as a result of the treatments.
While he has not come out and said that his mother’s health is a distraction, it is not hard to imagine that Hiura’s head is not 100% on baseball right now. Nor should it be, for that matter.
Other Options At First Base
The Brewers currently have Daniel Vogelbach as their first baseman. Vogelbach, a late addition to the team last season, took the city by storm with his timely hitting and hulking physique. Unfortunately, the magic has not translated to this season, and Vogelbach is only hitting .210/.324/.345 with four home runs and 10 RBI.
Travis Shaw, who was brought back this offseason to play third base, can also play first. However, like Vogelbach, he is a left-handed hitter and the two are often in the lineup together. Shaw is also having a down year with a terrible .191/.281/.335 with six home runs and 26 RBI. Clearly, the Brewers require another bat, preferably a right-handed one, at first base.
Zach Green, who the Brewers signed to a minor league deal this offseason, has been lighting Triple-A up with his torrid hitting. He is hitting .233/.304/.578 with nine home runs and 27 RBI. Thanks in part to his hitting, the Nashville Sounds had a 15-game winning streak that was just snapped recently.
The Brewers could also fill the void at first via the trade market as well. One intriguing name is Joey Gallo, the power-hitting left-handed batter from the Texas Rangers. Given Shaw’s season-long struggles, his days in Milwaukee may be numbered. With Luis Urias now playing second and third base, thanks to the addition of Willy Adames, the Brewers have been playing Shaw and his cold bat less and less. Gallo could be acquired for mid-level prospects and find playing time right away, especially if he outhits Vogelbach.
Does Keston Hiura Have A Future In Milwaukee?
According to the Milwaukee Brewers, Keston Hiura is believed to have a future with the club. They believe that a prolonged stint in Triple-A, away from the limelight, will allow him to fix his mechanics and become the hitter he showed he could be in 2019.
Earlier this season, Hiura was demoted to Nashville to work on his swing. While there, he hit over .300 and hit four home runs. There is concern among some fans that his success in the minors and struggles in the Majors indicate he will be a so-called “AAAA” player. This is a player who can rake in the minors, but cannot hit Big League pitching.
Will this be the case for Hiura? Only time will tell. However, he has shown that he can hit Big League pitching and that he can be a valuable member of a contending team. In addition to his mother’s illness, he was learning a new position this year. Perhaps more time in the minors, in addition to the DH possibly being added to the NL next season, will lead to more production from the young infielder.
The Brewers Have Seen This Before, And It Worked Out
In 2018, a young pitcher stormed on the scene for the Milwaukee Brewers. In 30 games that season, a young Corbin Burnes went 7-0 (no starts) with a 2.61 ERA. He did, however, show some signs of wildness, and was known for his tremendously high pitch counts. This is similar to Hiura’s batting average and home run numbers in 2019, along with his alarming high number of strikeouts.
In 2019, the floor fell out from under Burnes. He started the year in the starting rotation but quickly lost his spot due to his lack of control and propensity to give up the home run. His struggles continued even after a move to the bullpen, and he was demoted to Triple-A (then San Antonio).
He struggled there as well and found himself pitching all the way down in Double-A. When the season ended, his Major League numbers were less than impressive. Burnes finished 1-5 with an 8.82 ERA, 1.84 WHIP, and 17 home runs given up. The Brewers, however, never gave up on him and his potential.
Last season, 2020, Burnes rebounded like no one could have expected. He worked his way back into the starting rotation, and ended up pitching so well, he finished sixth in the NL Cy Young voting. When it was all said and done, Burnes had a 4-1 record, 2.11 ERA, and 13.3 strikeouts per nine innings. This season, he set the Major League record for most strikeouts to start a season before issuing a walk and leads the NL in five pitching categories.
It is safe to say: the Brewers’ patience paid off, and there is no reason to think it will not again.