Brewers Option Struggling Keston Hiura Down To Minors As Yelich Returns
By David Gasper
It was time. The Milwaukee Brewers have sent Keston Hiura down to Triple-A.
A slump through the first week of the season, hey that happens. Nothing too concerning there. Slumping through two weeks, okay maybe a little concern grows. A three week slump to start the season is definite cause for concern. After a month with little to no progress, it’s time to make a change.
Craig Counsell effectively benched Hiura this past week, a sign that a move like this might be coming. Hiura can’t work his way out of this slump by sitting on the bench.
Keston Hiura has been slumping for the entire first month of the season. Hiura is hitting .152 with just one home run, 12 total hits in 89 plate appearances, with 32 strikeouts. He’s in the bottom quarter of the league in terms of expected batting average, expected slugging, xwOBA, chase rate, and outs above average.
The Milwaukee Brewers had no other choice but to send Keston Hiura down as the minor league season begins.
If the minor league baseball season began like it normally did, a few days after big league Opening Day, then maybe he would’ve been sent down a little earlier. Now that the season is getting ready to begin, he’ll have a place he can get everyday at-bats and try to swing his way out of this deep slump.
Even in Travis Shaw‘s bad slump to start 2019, Shaw was hitting .189 with a .617 OPS with four home runs through May 3rd. Hiura right now is hitting just .152 with a .513 OPS and one home run.
Hiura’s struggles are puzzling. All of a sudden, he can’t hit the ball in the strike zone. This year, Hiura is making contact on pitches in the strike zone just 54.2% of the time. In his successful 2019 rookie season, that number was at 74.6%.
It’s always worrisome when a player starts a season off in a deep slump, because if it takes a little to get out of it, a player can start to press and when they press, they generally do worse. It’s a mental grind going through a season-opening slump like that, and Hiura is in the thick of it. He’s looking frustrated and just straight up lost at the plate.
Craig Counsell was putting him out there mostly everyday to get him going, but instead of moving in a positive direction, things have gotten worse.
The return of Christian Yelich to the lineup helps fill the void.
When Yelich went on the IL, the Brewers had to depend on Hiura getting back into the swing of things, literally. Now Christian Yelich has returned and the corresponding roster move for that is to send Hiura down. Tyrone Taylor was also optioned down as Lorenzo Cain returned at the same time.
With the presences of Cain and Yelich returning to the heart of the order, the Brewers can afford to send Hiura down in the hopes that he can find his swing in Nashville.
It’s a disappointing turn for Hiura. He came up as a hotshot hitting prospect in 2019, found success, and it’s been downhill ever since. He struggled with strikeouts and putting the ball in play in 2020 and those issues which we thought were a one-off in a weird season turned out to be a continuous problem.
Hiura’s struggles to make contact in the zone and have competitive at-bats are cause for concern. He does not look remotely close to the same player he was in 2019.
Daniel Vogelbach and Billy McKinney will handle first base duties in the meantime.
He should be back soon, and the Brewers will be their best possible team when he’s on it and he’s hitting like himself. But he’s not right now, and the move down to Triple-A is much needed.