Hiura, 22, certainly hasn’t shown himself in capable of keeping up at the game’s highest level. To the contrary, he’s slashing a hefty .281/.333/.531 with five home runs in 69 plate appearances. While there’s much to be desired in his combination of 23 strikeouts and three walks, Hiura has largely confirmed that the Brewers and prospect watchers were right to expect big things right out of the gates.
It’s tough to see that batting line leave the active roster, particularly given Shaw’s struggles to open the year. He’ll presumably return to his customary duties at the hot corner, with Mike Moustakas going back to second base. The defensive alignment is suboptimal, but passable; it’s the hitting department where this decision will likely be judged.
Before he hit the shelf, the 29-year-old Shaw managed only a .163/.266/.281 slash in 154 plate appearances. That’s far shy of the output he delivered in his first two seasons in Milwaukee, during which he launched 63 home runs and batted a cumulative .258/.347/.497.
GM David Stearns explained to reporters that the club made this move to “preserv[e] organizational depth.” (Via Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; links to Twitter.) Of course, Shaw could have been optioned down instead of Hiura, but Stearns says the veteran has earned the right to step back into the MLB lineup. That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed to stay there. The pressure will be on Shaw and struggling first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who is out of options.
Stearns rejected the notion that service time played a role in the decision. Whether or not that was a motivating factor, there are implications for both players. Hiura’s initial promotion occurred on May 14th, meaning he could have run up 139 days of service by remaining in the majors all year long. That would have set him up for potential future Super Two qualification. Unless he comes back rather quickly, that’ll no longer be the case. On Shaw’s side, he’ll get the opportunity to reestablish his stock and boost his arbitration earning power by returning to the MLB roster. He has a strong starting point with this year’s $4.675MM salary, though that also means he’ll need to improve in order to be tendered by the Brewers (or command good money in free agency if he isn’t).