Sunday, May 22, 2022

Brewers demote Keston Hiura to Triple-A as low contact rate remains an issue for infielder

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On Friday the Milwaukee Brewers demoted infielder Keston Hiura to Triple-A, the team announced. The move makes room on the roster for righty Luis Perdomo, giving the club an extra reliever now that lefty Aaron Ashby is making occasional spot starts.

Hiura, 25, owns a .210/.310/.378 batting line with two home runs in 42 plate appearances this year. That’s not awful (it’s about two percent worse than league average in this low-scoring environment) but Hiura has struck out 20 times in those 42 plate appearances, and the contact issues that have hampered him the last three seasons continue.

Here are Hiura’s contact rates on pitches in the strike zone since his stellar 2019 MLB debut:

  • 2020: 67.1 percent
  • 2021: 61.6 percent
  • 2022: 61.8 percent

The MLB average is 84.2 percent. Hiura’s 64.4 percent in-zone contact rate since 2020 is far and away the worst in baseball among the 297 players with at least 400 plate appearances. Colorado Rockies outfielder Sam Hilliard is a distant second at 68.6 percent, and no one else is below 70.0 percent. It is very, very difficult to be a productive hitter when you swing and miss this much.

Furthermore, Hiura doesn’t provide much defensive value. The Brewers had him work out in left field in spring training in an effort to increase his versatility, but the fact of the matter is he’s blocked at first base (Rowdy Tellez), second base (Kolten Wong), left field (Christian Yelich), and DH (Andrew McCutchen). At least in Triple-A he can get consistent at-bats.

The No. 9 pick in the 2017 draft, Hiura was once one of the game’s best prospects, and he delivered a .303/.368/.570 batting line with 19 home runs in 84 games as a rookie in 2019. He’s authored a .194/.282/.363 batting line since then though, costing him a regular lineup spot. Hiura hit .256/.374/.465 in 51 games in Triple-A year ago.

The Brewers currently own the NL Central’s best record (18-8) and run differential (plus-41). They open a three-game series with the defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves at Truist Park on Friday night.

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