Brewers 2022 Bold Prediction #3: Keston Hiura bounces back to 2019 form, but Christian Yelich does not
Typically I try not to be cynical in these bold predictions. I prefer making positive predictions about just how great this team and these players are going to be. But that is not the case here. This is the rare case where I want my prediction to not come true.
Throughout spring training, we’ve seen an improved Keston Hiura. He’s toned down his leg kick, has a renewed focus, and has seen results quickly. Hiura leads the club in home runs in Cactus League play with four long balls. He’s hitting the ball hard, making consistent contact, and is 9-for-22 (.409 BA) with 10 RBIs and six extra-base hits.
Hiura is a young hitter that’s made some changes and even though spring training success doesn’t mean regular season success, it has to do wonders for his confidence and his 2019 form should be easier to replicate.
In 2019, Hiura hit .303 with a .938 OPS, 138 OPS+, and 19 home runs in 84 games. This spring, Hiura has a 1.545 OPS. The sample size is small and it is spring, but there is clear cause for optimism with Hiura.
Christian Yelich, meanwhile, has not made any mechanical adjustments it seems, and has been pretty quiet on what he’s looking to change from last season to this year. So far in spring, he had a .693 OPS in 25 ABs, again it’s a small sample size and it’s spring training, but given the struggles last year, seeing some immediate positive results would be nice.
Yelich has still been hitting a lot of balls weakly to the right side of the infield. He’s dumped in some base hits but hasn’t really been driving the ball or hitting it hard. He’s not hitting it into the air that much and getting carry on the baseball, which is what led to his major success in 2018 and 2019. Until he starts to do that, reaching his 2019 form again will be impossible.
Let’s remember how ridiculous Yelich’s 2019 season was. He hit .329/.429/.671 with 44 homers, an 1.100 OPS, and a 179 OPS+. Those numbers are unreal. Reaching that level of performance again will be difficult, even when things are going right.
Expecting Yelich to reach that 2019 level of performance again may be too much of an ask. I’d love to see him do it. I hope he does it. But maybe we should be expecting something closer to his level of performance with the Marlins where he didn’t supply much power. Simply getting base hits and hitting the ball hard, whether in the air or not, would vastly improve the Brewers offense from last year.
If both players bounce back, this Brewers team is lethal, if just one of them bounces back to 2019 form, this offense is still greatly improved from last year. The Brewers are depending on bounce backs from these two guys, but I predict they’ll only get it from one of them.