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Keston Hiura Deserves Your Attention

Prospect call-ups have been getting all the baseball headlines recently - Austin Riley has been mashing, Brendan Rodgers has Coors Field, and fantasy owners are salivating over the presumed promotion of uber-prospect Yordan Alvarez. Oh, and some guy named Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is getting his first taste of the majors, no big deal.

With all of this going on, Milwaukee Brewers top prospect Keston Hiura seems to be being metaphorically swept under the rug. He is just 47% owned in Yahoo fantasy leagues, and that number is far lower than it deserves to be for a player with his pedigree, proven ability, and potential to be an everyday starter in a potent lineup.

Overlooking MLB Pipeline’s 15th-ranked prospect, second baseman Keston Hiura, would be a mistake you don’t want to make at this point in the season.

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The Come Up

22-year-old Keston Hiura was picked ninth overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2017 MLB Draft, and expectations were high despite the fact that he had elbow issues in college and while starting out in the minors. In fact, FanGraphs ranked Hiura as the second-best college hitter in his class - citing his lightning-quick bat speed and above-average raw power at UC Irvine. He proceeded to crush minor league pitching and eventually quell his injury concerns before starting out at at the Triple-A level in 2019. In 37 games at Triple-A, Hiura slashed .333/.408/.698 with 11 homers, 26 RBI, 23 runs scored, and four steals over 147 plate appearances. Those are very impressive numbers (with an eye-popping slugging percentage), and the Brewers seemed to agree as they made the call to move him up to the big league club.

His MLB debut came on May 14th and he has been the Brewers everyday second baseman since his promotion. In eight total games, Hiura is slashing .273/.333/.455 with two home runs, two RBI, and three runs scored over 33 at-bats. He has multi-hit games in four of his eight contests, but has also gone without a hit in 3-of-8 and has struck out an alarming 13 times with just one walk. His plate discipline may take some time to adjust to big league pitching, but he clearly has the profile of a useful fantasy producer at a position that is top-heavy but lacks any semblance of depth.

Projection site Steamer has Hiura slashing .257/.309/.428 with 11 homers, 44 RBI, 38 runs scored, and seven steals over 361 plate appearances for the remainder of the season. This projection, along with the other top projection sites, seems to be on the low side in regards to his batting average and on-base percentage. His career average slash line is a much better .286/.355/.393, and there’s no overwhelming reason to suggest that he can’t approach those numbers in the majors.


Opportunity is Key

The important issue to address regarding Hiura is his potential to remain an everyday starter upon the return of Travis Shaw. Shaw (wrist) is currently on the IL, but he began his rehab assignment on May 22 and could be back with the big league club within the next week. Shaw, after consecutive seasons with 30 home runs or more, slumped heavily to begin the 2019 season. He hit a dismal .163/.266/.281 with four homers, eight RBI, and 11 runs scored over 135 at-bats before being placed on the IL.

Hernan Perez and Mike Moustakas filled in at second base prior to Hiura’s call-up, and Moustakas has since shifted back to third base while Perez was relegated to a bench role. The Brewers clearly have confidence in Hiura’s abilities, and it’s possible that the struggling Shaw will be demoted to a “bat-off-the-bench” utility role as long as Hiura can continue to run with the opportunity that he has been presented with.

He has fluctuated between the fifth, sixth, or seventh spot in the batting order, which is great for Hiura’s fantasy potential considering the immense offensive firepower the Brewers possess. The Brew Crew currently rank in the top 10 in runs scored, hits, home runs, total bases, runs batted in, and on-base percentage. Christian Yelich has a lot to do with that, of course. That said, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, and Yasmani Grandal make up a core of really solid hitters in a lineup that’s tough to get through unscathed. Hiura is in a prime spot to succeed, and he’s getting his chance to run away with the starting job if he can prove he’s the real deal. Don’t be surprised when it happens.


2019 Outlook

Hiura’s outlook for the remainder of 2019 is certainly not set in stone, as with most rookie call-ups. However, he has played in every game at a prime position in the high-powered Brewers lineup ever since his promotion. Most importantly, he has a good chance to keep that role with Shaw’s early-season struggles and the Brewers giving him every opportunity to seize the job before Shaw returns. Do whatever you can to scoop this top prospect if he is still available in your league, before a much wiser fantasy rival snatches him from your grasp and you potentially spend the rest of the season regretting your hesitation.

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