What to expect from Brewers' Hiura in bigs

May 14th, 2019

Brewers fans will soon get their first look at the team’s most exciting young hitter since the arrival of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun after the team announced Tuesday that top prospect Keston Hiura is being promoted to the Major Leagues.

Hiura, 22, is getting the call after a terrific start to his first Triple-A campaign in which he batted .333/.408/.698 with 11 home runs, 12 doubles and 26 RBIs in 37 games for Triple-A San Antonio. The No. 15 overall prospect had been especially hot of late, too, hitting .366 with a 1.241 OPS and four homers in 13 games this month.

To clear a spot for Hiura on their 25-man and 40-man rosters, the Brewers placed third baseman Travis Shaw on the 10-day injured list (right wrist strain) and designated Corey Spangenberg for assignment. 

One of the top offensive prospects in the Minors, Hiura will make his Major League debut less than two years after the Brewers took him with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 Draft out of the University of California-Irvine.

Scouts regarded Hiura as the best pure hitter in his class after he led all NCAA Division I hitters with a .442 average as a junior. He’s only enhanced that reputation in the pro ranks by raking his way through the Minors at an accelerated pace.

Hiura hit his way up to full-season ball in his pro debut after signing with Milwaukee for $4 million, slashing .371/.422/.611 in 42 games between the Rookie-level Arizona League and Class A Wisconsin.

Opening his first full season at Class A Advanced Carolina, he posted a .320/.382/.529 slash line over 50 games en route to a Double-A promotion in June. He continued to perform well in the Southern League, slashing .293/.357/.464 over 73 games to finish the season with a composite .293/.357/.464 batting line. He totaled 53 extra-base hits (13 HR, 34 2B, 5 3B) in 123 games between the two stops, and also suited up U.S. squad in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game along the way.

After the season, Hiura took home MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League after batting .333 with five homers and a circuit-best 33 RBIs.

Altogether, Hiura will be joining the Brewers after batting .316/.380/.534 with 28 homers, 60 doubles and 102 RBIs in 202 Minor League contests.

Hiura’s right-handed swing is as gorgeous as it is impactful, featuring an elite combination of bat speed, physical strength and bat-to-ball skills that enables him to generate consistently loud contact to all fields and leads scouts to peg him as a future plus-plus hitter. A sizeable front leg lift along with a swing-heavy approach does lead to some strikeout tendencies -- he posted strikeouts and walk rates of 20.7 and 7.4 percent in the Minors -- but the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder also has shown that he can adeptly made adjustments from at-bat to at-bat and consistently punishes mistake pitches.

Hiura’s natural hitting ability fuels his projection for above-average power in the big leagues, and that could translate to 25-plus-homer seasons in his prime. He’s capable of going yard to any part of the ballpark, too, and had hit eight of his 11 home runs to the opposite field this season in Triple-A.

Though he’s not a basestealing threat, Hiura does possess average speed and earns high marks for his baserunning and awareness.

On the other side of the ball, Hiura has overcome the elbow injury that limited him to designated hitter duties as a UC Irvine junior and caused some teams to pass him over in the Draft.

The Brewers, of course, were not one of those teams, as they believed that Hiura could make a successful recovery from his elbow injury without needing Tommy John surgery. Sure enough, he completed a throwing program in Rookie ball during his pro debut without issue, then saw game action at the keystone that fall during instructional league before being deployed regularly at the position in 2018.

Hiura’s arm strength is still below average and gets stretched thin on double-play turns as well as long throws from shallow right field, but he’s largely proved himself as an average defender with solid actions as a second baseman, having worked hard to improve his hands and footwork at the position during his rise through the Minors.  

The good news is that any of Hiura’s defensive shortcomings will be outweighed by his huge upside at the plate, as there are few players in the Minors who can rival his combination of hitting ability and power.

Those qualities should allow Hiura to make an immediate impact as part of the Brewers’ lineup, regardless of where he’s slotted into the batting order.

And while he may experience some growing pains at the highest level like so many young hitters do, Hiura possesses all the requisite ingredients to develop into an All-Star-caliber player long term.