Brewers call up top prospect Keston Hiura as Travis Shaw struggles
The Milwaukee Brewers have called up second baseman Keston Hiura, the organization's top prospect and no. 15 in all of baseball, as they hunt for improved offensive output during the majors toughest division race. Robert Murray of The Athletic was first with the report.
Milwaukee currently ranks 14th with a .755 OPS, but is struggling to find consistent production from the right side, especially with Ryan Braun's constant injury concerns and Jesus Aguilar's nasty power outage. Hiura should solve some of those issues; the 22-year-old is batting .333/.408/.698 with 11 home runs and four steals in 37 Triple-A games this year.
Hiura figures to slot in at his natural second base, kicking Mike Moustakas back over to his traditional hot corner position and leaving Travis Shaw, our beloved Mayor of Ding Dong City, as the odd man out.
Shaw had developed into one of the league's most consistent left-handed sluggers, posting a 111 OPS+ with 92 home runs from 2015-18. But he has absolutely collapsed in 2019, and is now sporting a 46 OPS+, the worst mark among all major leaguers who have picked up at least 150 plate appearances.
The Brewers moved Shaw to the injured list with a wrist issue to make room for Hiura on the 25-man roster, as reported by The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal.
With a relatively sturdy top of the order, Milwaukee will be able to ease Hiura into the lineup. But make no mistake: The former first-round pick is here for his offense. Hiura has raked at every minor league stop and continues to flash new offensive tools, as he added improved home run pop and patience at the plate with the San Antonio Missions this year.
His strikeout rate did spike in Triple-A this year, which is something of a concern. Look no further than former Brewers' top prospect Lewis Brinson as evidence of a prospect whose contact issues only became more exacerbated in the majors. Still, Hiura's strikeouts weren't too much of a worry prior to 2019, so this could be just a bit of small-sample-size theater as a young player adjusts to a new level.
Defensively, Hiura is hardly anything to write home about, and scouts seem to think he profiles as average at best at the keystone spot. But as more and more clubs seemingly punt on second base defense, the Brewers are simply keeping up with the changing tides. Moustakas has been serviceable at second for the Crew this year, but it's not as if the Milwaukee pitching staff was relying on high-level second base defense. Hiura should be able to fit in well enough in the field.
The unknown piece of this puzzle will be how Hiura handles the promotion. The Boston Red Sox and Washington Nationals similarly promoted top prospect infielders earlier this season, with nearly opposite results. The Red Sox called up third baseman Michael Chavis and quickly moved him to second, where they are getting monster production as they battle back from their early season struggles. Boston is 14-6 when Chavis plays, and he owns an impressive .970 OPS.
On the flip side, when the Nats called up Carter Kieboom, who was admittedly not as highly regarded as Chavis and Hiura, he was an utter disaster. Kieboom struck out 16 times in 11 games, batted .128, committed four errors and somehow amassed minus-6 defensive runs saved. He has since been sent back to Triple-A.
Hiura figures to be more Chavis than Kieboom, but it's impossible to know how a young player will react to the bright lights until he is thrown into the fire.
The Brewers are betting he can be the offensive spark plug to jump-start the team in the midst of this three-game losing skid. Hiura will get his first opportunity this week as Milwaukee wraps up a long-road trip with series against Philadelphia and Atlanta, a pair of NL postseason contenders.
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