Brewers: Likelihood of Keston Hiura Playing Outfield In 2022?
By Tyler Koerth
In a recent press conference, Brewers President of baseball operations David Stearns hinted at the idea of Keston Hiura playing the outfield in 2022.
Throughout his professional career, Hiura has logged just three defensive innings outside of first or second base. As a player known for his defensive struggles as an infielder, a transition to the outfield may make some sense.
Along with this, it was also made known that Hiura will undergo surgery on his throwing elbow. His elbow issues are well documented going back to his college days at UC Irvine, so hopefully this procedure will help him long term.
Why are the Brewers considering playing Keston Hiura in the outfield?
Entering the offseason, the Brewers are likely to lose Avisail Garcia. After surpassing 1,050 plate appearances between the last two years, Garcia’s initial club option flipped to a mutual option. Given his impressive year and with control over him out of the Brewers hands, it is assumed that Garcia will pursue free agency in search of a larger contract.
On the flip side, Jackie Bradley Jr has a player option for 2022 at $9.5MM. Despite having one of the worst offensive seasons ever recorded, JBJ will likely remain a Brewer for the 2022 season. It would cost the Brewers $6.5MM to buy out his contract.
The other two players currently in the outfield include Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. After a second consecutive season of under performing, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Yelich’s offensive game. On the other hand Cain was brilliant for the Brewers down the stretch, but missed a lot of games due to injury.
All of this sets up a perfect opportunity for Keston Hiura to regain a starting spot in the Brewers lineup in 2022. The biggest hitch in this plan is if he struggles offensively again.
In 2021, Hiura slashed just .168/.256/.301/.557 in 61 games. Strikeouts again continued to be an issue as he struck out 39% of the time. This became quite problematic given his rapid drop off in power/slugging.
In the minor leagues, he initially excelled and actually was promoted back up to the big league club. However, he was never able to get it going with the Brewers. In what was a disappointing season all around, Hiura ended with .256 batting average, .839 OPS, and just eight home runs at the Triple-A level.
With the Brewers outfield lacking productive hitters, Keston Hiura returning to the hitter he was expected to be would be huge for the Crew. With many players expected to see pay increases in arbitration, having the expectation of Hiura playing the outfield in 2022 may allow them to pursue players in other areas or return impending free agents such as Eduardo Escobar.
In summary, the concept makes sense for a small market team like Milwaukee. With an already solid infield, having Hiura change positions for the second consecutive season is in everyone’s best interest.