Things have gone from bad to worse for Brewers first baseman Keston Hiura.
Keston Hiura was demoted to Triple-A on May 3rd after starting the 2021 season with a .152/.247/.266 slash line and 32 strikeouts in 89 plate appearances. He took a week off to go back home and spend time with his family and get a mental break and then joined Triple-A Nashville.
Things seemed to be working well, as Hiura immediately started to rake in Triple-A. In nine games with the Sounds, Hiura hit .438/.526/.906 with six doubles and three home runs. By all accounts, he was back to his old self. He looked like his old self at the plate, reports were that he was in a much better headspace and he was having more fun.
After winning the Triple-A Player of the Week award, Hiura was called back up and returned to the Brewers lineup on May 24th.
With expectations that he finally was in a groove at the plate, we were ready for the Hiura the Brewers have been waiting for. Instead, we have to wait a little longer.
Keston Hiura still hasn’t gotten going at the plate after a demotion, so now what do the Brewers do?
The Brewers have a couple of options in handling the future of Keston Hiura with a couple of pros and cons of each possible choice.
Send Hiura down to Triple-A
Pros: Getting Hiura some more at-bats at Triple-A might be beneficial in the sense that it would give him more at-bats against some lesser pitching in a lower pressure environment as he continues to figure things out. He only played in nine games in Triple-A on his first assignment. Perhaps that wasn’t quite enough and he needs more.
He also struck out 13 times in those nine games, which continues a troubling trend for him. By going down again, he could work on those strikeout issues.
Also, with Hiura down in Triple-A again, the Brewers could try to get more production out of first base from someone else. It’s been a black hole in the lineup so far this season, and that’s a spot they need more production out of.
Cons: By sending Hiura down a second time in about a month, the Brewers could end up destroying whatever confidence Hiura still has right now. This is a delicate mental situation for him. Slumps like this can take a major mental toll on a person, plus with the happenings in his personal life, he has a lot not going his way right now.
Hiura knows how bad he’s been at the plate, but he’s trying to remain confident in his abilities and knows that he’s a good hitter. But a second demotion could be a really tough blow and could damage his confidence not only for the rest of this season but going forward in his career.
Hiura is a talented hitter that can be a force in the middle of this lineup if he rights the ship. Sending him down again might just be sending a 30 foot rogue wave to rock the ship even more.
Keep rolling with Hiura in the big leagues
Pros: Hiura has only been back for about a week, but he’s 1-for-20 with 11 Ks. It’s an ugly start but a small sample still. The Brewers are facing some weak teams in their next few series, and the lesser pitching he will face could help boost his chances of getting hits and getting his confidence fully back.
Beating up on Triple-A pitching isn’t necessarily the same kind of confidence booster as beating up on MLB pitching. Once he’s able to do that and lock in, Hiura is capable of getting on a big hot stretch at the plate. That could happen at any moment, especially with the caliber of pitchers the Brewers are currently facing.
Cons: While Hiura finding his swing could happen at any moment, as much as that could mean today or tomorrow, that could also mean two weeks from now or a month from now. By rolling with him for another couple weeks, that means the offense will essentially continue to try to operate with a black hole at a key position in the lineup until he figures things out.
As the Brewers get into the heart of the season, the more difficult it gets to roll with a guy hitting .130 on the year while playing mostly everyday.
So what should the Brewers do with Keston Hiura?
While going with Option B and sticking with Hiura may hurt the offense and the team in the short-term, the potential long-term damage of going with Option A far outweighs whatever short-term cost there is.
The Brewers need Hiura. They know that. He knows that. We know that.
They have to give him the space to get it going. However, if he gets the space to do so and still can’t find success as we get closer and closer to the trade deadline, the Brewers will have no choice but to send him back down.
The Brewers gave him about 90 plate appearances to begin the season to figure things out. If he can’t figure it out in another 90-100 plate appearances, then the Brewers need to seriously consider alternative options to start at first base the rest of the season.
By that point, they’ll be much closer to the deadline and there will be other options on the market to trade for, because the Brewers don’t have much for in-house solutions.
There’s no specific date that he needs to start hitting by, but rather it’s a number of plate appearances he needs to get. If he can’t figure it out by about 200 plate appearances on the year, the Brewers need to change things up.
Hiura’s struggles have put the Brewers in a tough spot. He’s a key piece of their future plans with this lineup, and if he can’t produce like they expected him to, the whole plan going forward has to change. Trading Hiura won’t be an option the Brewers are likely to consider. They know his potential and don’t want to completely give up too soon.