Leaving the hopes and dreams of a professional baseball team to make the playoffs up to one player is somewhat normal, especially if that one player (Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, etc.) means that much to that franchise. But for a team’s hopes to rest on the shoulders of two players, who are at vastly different points of their MLB careers, is quite a stretch.
Yet here the Milwaukee Brewers sit.
The first player is easy to guess, as all-world outfielder, slugger, and puppy giver Christian Yelich has played himself into the conversation of biggest turnaround after a trade ever in the history of the MLB. Already having won the MVP award last season for his outstanding performance in helping lead the Brewers to the National League Central crown and one game away from the World Series, he is back for more and producing at an even better rate in the 2019 season.
As Yelich goes, the Brewers go, and he has helped keep this team’s head above water as their pitching staff has fought through the highs and lows of the season already. Sitting only one-half game behind the first-place Chicago Cubs, Yelich’s hot bat and overall All-Star play have helped lead this team to be in contention as the break sits a few weeks away.
The other player that this team’s hopes rely on is much murkier to find, simply because he has barely been at the big-league level. Mike Moustakas has had a huge season for the Brew Crew in his first full season as a member of an NL team, and his newfound positional flexibility has helped this team address their infield woes by sticking the Moose at either second or third base.
Moose’s bat has kept him in the lineup in almost every game so far this season, only being out for a few games here and there for rest or a few small bang-up injuries. But Moose is not the guy that this season’s results are dependent upon.
Keston Hiura is the other piece of the equation for the Brewers, and the fan base cannot wait long enough for him to become a full-time piece at the big-league level.
Having gotten his first taste of the speed of the MLB game when Travis Shaw went down with a wrist injury, the Milwaukee fanbase was spoiled with Hiura’s hitting acumen and plate discipline across only 17 games, 16 of which were starts at second with Shaw on the Injury List.
While only a very small sample size, Hiura was able to slide right into the big leagues, albeit after a little bit of an adjustment process that saw him end a lot of at-bats with strikeouts. Once he got his timing down and figured out, he was close to unstoppable at the plate.
Five long balls, nine RBIs and an OPS of .864 is nothing super impressive, but it was enough of an impression on the Brewers fan base to want them to have Hiura take over in some starting fashion for the foreseeable future. Deemed as one of the best hitters in all of the minor leagues, Hiura was also deemed as ‘off the table’ by general manager David Stearns, which speaks to the organization’s thoughts of the kind of player that Hiura is now and what he projects to become.
Hiura does have an immediate role on this team but is currently biding his time down in the minor leagues as the team is trying to help Shaw work through his season-long slump at the plate. Shaw and first baseman Jesus Aguilar are combining to hit under .200, which is an atrocious combination of bad seasons that no one predicted or saw coming.
The role that Hiura would have on this team is that he could slot into the starting second baseman role, moving Shaw to the bench or into a three-man platoon with Eric Thames and Aguilar at first base, although Aguilar would most likely end up being the odd man out in this situation. After having slugged his way to lead the NL in home runs at the ASB last season, Aguilar has had a minuscule impact on the Brewers offense in 2019, which has made his roster spot that much more unguaranteed.
Claimed off waivers towards the beginning of Stearns’ career as the team’s GM after the Cleveland Indians let him go, Aguilar has been one of the bright spots for this club and has always kept his head up even with the struggles he has had to deal with. While potentially looking up at his chances to remain on the roster, Aguilar has all the tools to remake himself into a second-half hero for this team and hopefully helping solidify his spot as the season progresses.
Both Yelich and Hiura have different roles on this team, but they all have the same purpose and ultimate goal, which involves getting this team back into the playoffs. While Hiura will need to be called up to be able to impact this squad, his role is pre-defined and would help bring some solidarity to a team that is struggling but is still more than in ear’s shot of taking over the lead in their division.
While other moves, like taking advantage of their top-heavy but blocked farm system to bring back rentals at the trade deadline, sound more conventional, staying in-house for certain additions almost has a better sound to it, simply due to how closely-knit this team is. While the potential for casting off a few longer-tenured players would hurt this team, ultimately their postseason goal would become more of a reality.
For a minor league prospect to have such a role on an MLB team, the Brewers understand what is at stake if Hiura were to be counted on as much as they may need him. But by pushing the issue and moving certain players out of their comfort zones, it may help produce a more polished product that can help this team enjoy the fruits of their labor and hopefully bring this team back to the World Series.