The Mayor of Ding Dong City is back - but Hiura's demotion still stings
Less than 48 hours after launching a game-tying home run in the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates in what would become one of the Brewers' most thrilling wins of the year, second baseman Keston Hiura is on his way to San Antonio to re-join Milwaukee's Triple-A club.
Infielder Travis Shaw was tabbed for Hiura's spot on the 25-man roster. Shaw missed three weeks with a wrist injury and played 10 games on a rehab assignment in the minors.
Hiura's demotion is sure to be a hot topic around Miller Park over the coming days, as the organization's top prospect – and no. 15 across all of baseball – was batting .281/.333/.531 with five home runs in 17 games with the big club. Hiura had already collected a litany of memorable moments in the blue and gold, and was providing legitimate production from the right side of the plate. But in the end, the 22-year-old got caught up in a baseball tale as old as time: the good, old fashioned roster crunch.
Shaw did have a minor league option remaining, so the Brewers could have kept him in the minors once his rehab stint was complete. But the Mayor deserved to be back in the majors. From 2017-18, Shaw was one of only four left-handed hitters to post a 120 OPS+ with at least 63 home runs across 1,000 plate appearance, joining All-Stars Bryce Harper, Cody Bellinger and Charlie Blackmon. One admittedly horrific April should not push the team's Opening Day cleanup hitter to the fringes of the franchise.
Jesus Aguilar has played almost as poorly as Shaw has this season and over a longer stretch of games. Plus, he doesn't have Shaw's defensive upside, positional flexibility, nor sustained track record. Aguilar is hitting just .224 since last summer's All-Star break and has just one hit in his last eight games. Luckily for Aguilar, though perhaps unfortunately for the Brewers, the burly first baseman is out of minor league options, meaning Milwaukee would have to designate him for assignment to keep both Shaw and Hiura on the roster. Aguilar has looked truly terrible for months now, but releasing a 2018 All-Star who is under contract through 2022 would be incredibly unwise.
Henceforth, Hiura is the odd man out.
But it's not as if the UC-Irvine star is bereft of flaws. In fact, in just 17 games in the majors, he displayed several very obvious blemishes. Since Hiura's May 14 debut, 177 players received at least 60 plate appearances. Here's where Hiura ranked among them in just a few advanced metrics:
Strikeout rate: 170th (33.3 percent)
Walk rate: t-154th (4.3 percent)
Batting Average on Balls in Play: t-45th (.361 BABIP)
Hiura does a lot of things well, and this 17-game sample size does not make a career. But he showed poor control of the zone, was struggling to make consistent contact, and when he did, some substantial luck was boosting his batting average. If anything, a nasty slump was likely on the horizon.
Strikeouts were a concern for Hiura before he was promoted; now he knows what he truly needs to work on at the highest level and can do so in a proper learning environment that will neither destroy his confidence at the plate nor Milwaukee's pennant race in the heated NL Central. Meanwhile, the Brewers get back one of their most reliable contributors over the past two years and maintain maximum depth for the future.
This certainly isn't the last we'll see of Hiura, and Aguilar and Shaw aren't in the clear yet. They ultimately need to produce. But for now, this is the move that Milwaukee needed to make.
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