The Brewers plans this off-season revolved around improving their defense. Signings of Kolton Wong and Jackie Bradley Jr provided proof of this. But it also prompted a change to first base from second base for Keston Hiura.
In theory this move was a win-win. Having Hiura play first base would reduce his odds of throwing errors while simultaneously keeping his bat in the lineup. Unfortunately, his bat is yet to get going two months into the season and he has been demoted to Triple-A Nashville once again.
This will be the start of Hiura’s second minor league stint this season. His first go-around consisted of a brief nine games in which he collected 14 hits with six of them being doubles and three being home runs. That success promoted a return to the major leagues.
Since returning to the Brewers on May 24th, 2021 Hiura went 2 for 26 with 16 strikeouts. It is fair to say that this time around Hiura will spend more than just nine games in the minor leagues.
Not having a productive Keston Hiura is a problem for this Brewers offense, but it also makes one wonder what their plan is at first base going forward?
On the season, Vogelbach is hitting for a .210 batting average, .668 OPS, and 84 OPS+. Shaw is sporting a .191 batting average, .616 OPS, and 69 OPS+. Neither of these are ideal, and to make matters worse, both are left handed hitters.
During Hiura’s first demotion Shaw did draw starts against left-handed pitchers while starting at first base. Unfortunately, Shaw historically struggles in this lefty-lefty matchup. This year is no different as he has a .158 batting average and just .289 slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers.
This puts the Brewers in a precarious position where they are in desperate need of production at first base and the guy they want there is slumping.
For now, Hiura will need to spend an extended time down in the minor leagues to work on his swing and restore his confidence and the Brewers will have to figure something out. Vogelbach and Shaw are the likely candidates to see increased playing time but a Zach Green promotion could be in store as well.
So far in 2021, Green has mashed nine home runs and contributed 27 RBI’s for the Triple-A Nashville Sounds. He does not hit for a high batting average and tends to strike out a lot. Green is currently not on the 40-man roster so a move would have to be made in order for him to get promoted.
In the end, Hiura slumping is not a good situation. Without great replacement options it would appear likely that the Brewers will wait this slump out and hope that he finds his groove with an extended stint in the minor leagues.