For the Milwaukee Brewers, big-time farm prospects seem to come up every 5+ years, and for a small market franchise, sometimes that gap in between hurts their chances at making the playoffs.
Players like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, and Jonathan Lucroy, among others, have all been drafted and developed talent that has risen through the minor league ranks to eventually make a big impact on the big league squad.
The next prospect for the Brewers to make that jump? Keston Hiura, the team’s 2017 first round draft selection.
The former University of California-Irvine Anteater, Hiura was widely regarded as the most pro-ready bat out of all college baseball players, making his transition to MLB pitching a bit easier to handle. While only drafted in 2017, Hiura was on a fast track through the minor leagues, and he is one of the first players from that draft to make the climb to the majors.
Due to an injury to starting second baseman Travis Shaw, coupled with Shaw’s offensive slump and Hiura tearing the cover off the ball while in Triple-A San Antonio, the call up for Hiura seemed to be an easy decision to make.
The big knock on the former Anteater is his defense, mostly due to having had Tommy John surgery in his final year of college before being drafted. Being relegated to designated hitter duties while undergoing recovery, Hiura went without fielding, shifting or throwing in a game setting for months on end, which led to questions about his decision-making skills and his arm strength after surgery.
TJS is decently rare for positional players, but it is definitely possible to undergo. Once his rehab period was deemed to be farther along, the Brewers put Hiura on a pretty cautious workload plan to develop his arm strength through his minor league career, helping him get used to game speed and re-developing arm angle and throwing motions as well.
Not only has Hiura acclimated to major league speed of play, but he has also seemed to thrive in it. While the process to get used to MLB play is a ton different than that of MiLB, Hiura has stepped right into the starting second baseman role and made a name for himself.
While positionally limited to second, Hiura’s range and thought process have both been on display early on this season. Through only 13 games and 12 starts, Hiura has a .261 average, 12 hits (3 of which are home runs), four RBIs and a .763 OPS.
These numbers are all solid for a rookie getting his feet on the ground at the MLB level, and the Brewers should be ecstatic about how well Hiura has adjusted to the MLB style while not trying to do too much.
The future for Hiura this season is a bit murky now, mostly because there is not a set plan for what to do when Shaw is off his hitting schneid and back on track to making an impact for the team. Both Shaw and Mike Moustakas, who has moved back to his original position of third base with the Shaw injury, have the capacities to play both second and third base, which presents some utility options for manager Craig Counsell.
The likely outcome for Hiura is that once Shaw comes back and demonstrates his offensive woes are past him, Hiura will end up getting shipped back to the minors to bid his time at Triple-A until another situation (injury, slump, trade, etc.) occurs that the big-league team needs his services.
Hiura has been a very valuable piece for Counsell and company to help bridge the gap with Shaw out, and while he definitely deserves to remain on the big-league roster, his time will be better (and more likely) spent honing his skills and earning everyday playing time down in the minor leagues.