Call-up season has come early this year, and with it a new cast of talents to root for and fawn over. Today the Milwaukee Brewers got in on the early season promotion trend and added Keston Hiura to their 25-man roster, and the list of future stars now gracing major league fields. Hiura is one of the more followed prospects in the minor league universe, due to his high draft position (ninth in the 2017 draft) and offensive upside. Fantasy managers have stashed Hiura in certain formats as early as a season ago with hopes of a potential call-up. Today is the day. Let’s take a look at what to expect from the former UC-Irvine standout.
Hiura ranked 12th on our Top 100 prospects list, 9th in our fantasy list and Matt Thompson ranked him as the top prospect in the Brewers system. Additionally Jason Pennini ranked Hiura as the third best prospect in the 2018 Arizona Fall League, stating that Hiura “crushes baseball to all fields and never gets cheated on his swings.” While noting that the “bat speed is double-plus”.
Defense (45 Glove/45 Throw): Working on his defense is often used as a euphemism for service time manipulation, but over the last few seasons it’s been a matter of Hiura managing an elbow injury that relegated him to DH duty his junior season at UC-Irvine. The Brewers started him on a throwing program and built up enough arm strength Post draft to see some limited action at second. He’s played entirely second base in his career, but he’s worked out in the outfield over the last year plus. Defensively he’s average at the position and shouldn’t be a detriment in the field.
Hit (55/65): The hit tool has long been Hiura’s calling card, but we’ve seen some concerns early in the 2019 campaign as Hiura’s strikeouts have climbed to unsettling levels. His track record speaks for itself as Hiura was a .375/.466/.581 career hitter in college and has carried that over to the professional ranks slashing .316/.379/.534.
Despite the strikeouts in the early going, Hiura possesses great timing. He’s unique in how he sets up and the mechanisms and movements he uses to achieve them. Both a toe tap and leg kick are involved, as he transfers his weight he moves his front foot by his back foot triggering the toe-tap, he then drives forward with his high leg kick engaging his lower half in a powerful manner. This allows him to get the most of his lower half and display power at the point of contact. His great hands do the rest of the work. Despite a lot of moving parts, Hiura has never changed his swing keeping the same setup dating back to his youth.
Power (50 Game/60 Raw): Hiura’s been getting to his raw power in 2019 taking advantage of the juiced balls and friendly PCL parks. At the time of his promotion Hiura was tied for sixth in the PCL with 11 homers, and has the highest ISO (.364) of his career outside two weeks of Rookie ball post-draft. Hiura’s power has taken a step forward and with it have come more strikeouts and walks. I expect the strikeouts to settle as they have over the last few weeks while his newfound patience should go hand and hand with his increase in power. I think 12-15 home runs the rest of the way is a reasonable expectation if Hiura takes the job at second and runs with it.
Speed (45 Present/45 Future): Over a two-year minor league career Hiura has stolen 21 bases, but has been caught 15 times. He’s 4-for-6 this season, and does have the ability to steal. He’s just an average runner, and shouldn’t impact the game in the bases tremendously, but sparing contributions will be the cherry on top. He fits the niche of crafty base-runner with average foot speed.
Prediction: Are the Brewers done with Travis Shaw? The struggling lefty bat is headed to the IL with a wrist injury. If Hiura can find similar success to what he’s seen in Triple-A this season, Shaw might get Wally Pipp’d. This was an outcome many anticipated eventually, but not this early. Hiura has the ability to be a .280-.290 hitter in early in his career while providing lots of doubles and high teen to low twenties home run output. A potential top offensive second baseman in the game for years to come.