When the Milwaukee Brewers selected Keston Hiura with the ninth overall pick in 2017, there were more than a few questions raised.
There was little doubt his bat would play in a professional setting. Based off of his hitting ability alone, it was a great pick. But questions of injury and where he fit in defensively were where critics started poking holes in the Milwaukee Brewers decision.
Because of an elbow injury in his last year at California-Irvine, Hiura was limited to designate hitter duties. Frankly, a bat like his will find a defensive home. It all will boil down to how his arm recovers.
While Hiura works his arm back, and a possible surgery, he will be progressing slowly through the farm system. At least that would be true if his bat was not making the case for him to try a higher level. Through his first nine games in the Arizona League, he is on an absolute tear. Not only has he had a hit in every game, he has already hit two homeruns.
Not bad for a guy whose draft profile says doesn’t have a defensive home. The point being that his bat will carry him through while he figures out the rest. The Milwaukee Brewers knew that when they called his name back in mid June.
The hot start through eight games plays right into what Reviewing The Brew’s Co-Expert Matthew Dewoskin predicted about the Hiura. His thoughts can be found here.
As Matthew points out, Hiura is not even 21 years old yet, and has the potential to be knocking the ball around Miller Park by the time he is 22.
But it is necessary to look at the question of where he will be fielding the ball. Elbow injuries can be tough to gauge. That is why he projects at second base. It requires the least amount of arm strength on the infield, except for first. At only 6’0″, that is an extremely unlikely home for him. So second base it is.
With some overcrowding in the middle infield it will take some maneuvering to find him a spot there. For theoretical purposes, let’s say Hiura is in a Milwaukee Brewers uniform in 2019. Two years from now.
Orlando Arcia will most likely be holding down shortstop, barring anything insane happening. That leaves Jonathan Villar, Eric Sogard, Hiura, and Travis Shaw to fill two spots on the infield. Plus any other young prospects, such as Mauricio Dubon, who may make a run at it.
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This leaves some flexibility for trades and letting players go to Free Agency. Starting with Shaw, he is under total control through next season, and arbitration eligible in 2019. He leads the team in batting average to this point in the year. Should his hitting ability continue, he will be at third base. They could move him to first, but they would have to trade Eric Thames.
Villar is arbitration eligible after this season. He becomes an unrestricted free agent in 2021. If Hiura keeps hitting well throughout the minors, Villar could get a contract extension to make him a more lucrative trade option. Or his defensive versatility could land him an outfield spot if needed. He got some time there when he played in Houston.
The first name to go will probably be Sogard. The 31 year old infielder is a free agent after this year. A plan for the future would mean he most likely would not get re-signed by the Milwaukee Brewers. There is too much young infield talent in the organization.
Hiura’s bat will play. It is as simple as that. More than likely he will be the future second baseman for the Milwaukee Brewers. He has the kind of potential to be a staple in the top of the lineup.
It was a solid first selection for the Brewers. They are taking a chance on a guy who may end up needing Tommy John. But the bat is what got him picked so high, and the bat is what will shine through and carry him to the Major Leagues.