Former Brewers first round pick fails to latch on with new AL team

He will instead start the season in the minors, at least for now.

Sep 28, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Keston Hiura (18) walks
Sep 28, 2022; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Milwaukee Brewers designated hitter Keston Hiura (18) walks / Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Sometimes for a first round pick who's never able to get things going with their drafting ballclub, a change in scenery is what they need to get their career back on track. And sometimes, even that doesn't work.

Infielder Keston Hiura was one of those players hoping for some change of scenery magic. The 27-year-old is a former 9th overall pick from back in 2017 who had become a free agent for the first time this past offseason after spending all of 2023 in the minors.

Hiura ended up signing a minor league contract with the Detroit Tigers last February that came with an invitation to spring training that he would hopefully use to earn himself a spot on the Opening Day roster. Despite his best efforts, it appears that won't be happening.

Former Brewers first rounder Keston Hiura failed to earn an 2024 Opening Day roster spot with the Tigers this spring.

On Friday, the Tigers announced that Hiura was being reassigned back to minor league camp, thus not making the 2024 Opening Day roster. That is despite what was actually a pretty strong effort this spring.

In 18 Grapefruit League games, Hiura hit .323 with a .966 OPS and a double, a triple, two homers, and nine runs batted in. His eight strikeouts equated to a relatively reasonable (for him) 23.5% of plate appearances this spring.

Hiura broke into the league with the Brewers back in 2019 and looked like he was going to be a mainstay of the Milwaukee lineup for years to come. In that rookie year, he hit .303 with a .938 OPS and 19 homers in 84 games. It did, however, come with a 30.8% strikeout rate that would become more of an issue as the years went on.

Hiura's strikeout issues would escalate in each of the following years, up to a staggering 41.7% during the 2022 season. As that happened, the offensive production decreased as he would hit for just a combined .205 average and .687 OPS in 200 games from 2020 to 2022.

That led the Brewers to find other options at both first and second base, Hiura's two main positions, during 2023, which he would spend solely with the Triple-A Nashville team after being designated for assignment in the spring. That's what eventually led him to the Detroit organization.

Though Hiura is heading to the minors to start the season, Evan Petzold notes in his story for the Detroit Free Press that his contract comes with an Upward Mobility Clause. With that, the Tigers have three dates (3/26, 6/1, and 8/1) where they must ask every team if they are willing to offer Hiura a major league roster spot. If one does, Detroit must either add him to the roster themselves or trade him to said team.

Just because he didn't make the Tigers Opening Day roster doesn't mean that Hiura can't eventually make his way back to the majors. It might just take a little longer than the former Brewers draftee had hoped.