There had been much talk among Milwaukee Brewers fans about what would happen to Keston Hiura once it was announced that Travis Shaw would return from the Injured List this week. Hiura’s fate was announced by the ball club today.
This news was certainly not pleasing to many fans. Keston Hiura has hit well since being called up to the majors for the first time in his career. Compounding some fans’ frustration is the fact that Travis Shaw hit so poorly to start the year. However, Shaw’s slump could possibly be explained by the injury, but he didn’t exactly light it up during his rehab starts. He played 10 games, slashed .235/.357/.324 with seven walks, and nine strikeouts.
How did Hiura do with the Brewers?
Hiura’s numbers were impressive for a player in his first stint in the major leagues who also has the pressure of high expectations. In 17 games, Hiura hit .281 with a .865 OPS. That’s a small sample size, but it does rank him second and fourth, respectively, among regular Milwaukee Brewers position players.
He’s already hit five homers, possibly the most impressive of which coming against dominant Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez last Saturday. Hiura gave Vazquez his first blown save of the year and sent the game to extra innings. The 12.8 AB/HR ratio would put him second on the team to just Christian Yelich among regular Brewer position players.
Things haven’t been all rosy. A bit of a free swinger even in the minors, Hiura has a 33.3% K rate with the Milwaukee Brewers, which would be the second worst among regular non-pitchers on the team behind only Eric Thames.
Also, Hiura’s four errors in the field already place him second worst on the team. That’s definitely not ideal considering how many fewer games he’s played than the rest of the team. There have been a number of other mistakes that haven’t shown up in the box score as well, including an off-target throw to Orlando Arcia in Saturday’s game that prevented them from completing a double play and helped jump-start Pittsburgh’s day offensively.
Where does he go from here?
First things first: this will absolutely not be Hiura’s only appearance with the Milwaukee Brewers this year. Sure it wasn’t perfect, but Hiura’s initial audition with Milwaukee proves that he belongs in the big leagues. But history shows that the team does quite a bit of roster manipulation over the course of a year and that means the younger players spend time back and forth between the majors and minors.
Money also comes into play here. While general manager David Stearns stated Monday that service time did not factor in to the decision to send Hiura down, it’s hard to believe that delaying when the Milwaukee Brewers will have to start paying him big money wasn’t one of the many factors involved here. Having him spend some more time in Triple-A helps the team in that sense, fair or not.
Mainly, though, the Brewers continue to indicate that they want to give players like Shaw, Thames, and Jesus Aguilar every opportunity to break out of their slumps. For a team that has every intention of contending for a World Series this year, being able to rely on even one of those players on top of Hiura down the stretch could only be a good thing.
In the meantime, Hiura will receive regular playing time with San Antonio, something that might not have happened if he and Shaw were on the big league team together. While down there, hopefully the coaches will help him work on being a bit more patient at the plate to help drop his K%, as well as work on refining some of the defensive skills that he’ll need at the major league level.
It’s never fun to see an exciting young player perform well in the majors, only to be rewarded for his efforts by being sent back to the minors. But Hiura proved that he belongs and will be a huge part of Milwaukee’s future, both short-term and long-term. The only question remaining is when he comes back.