The Brewers are bringing top prospect Keston Hiura back to the majors, The Athletic’s Robert Murray reports (Twitter link). In a corresponding move, the struggling Travis Shaw will head down to Triple-A.
This will be Hiura’s second stint in the major leagues, as he made his debut in a 17-game cameo for Milwaukee earlier this season while Shaw was on the IL with a wrist injury. During that brief time with the Brewers, Hiura lived up to his status as one of baseball’s consensus top prospects, hitting .281/.333/.531 with five homers over 69 plate appearances. While Hiura struck out in 23 of those trips to the plate and benefited from a .361 BABIP, he was also doing damage when he did make strong contact, with a .369 xwOBA that exactly matched his .369 wOBA.
Given his tendency to strike out and the fact that Hiura doesn’t turn 23 until August, it may be a bit much to expect the youngster to continue being an above-average offensive producer for the remainder of the season (or as long as he’s still on the 25-man roster). Yet it was clear that some type of upgrade was needed for Shaw, who has become a weak link on a Brewers team with postseason aspirations. His wrist problem, which cost him three weeks on the injured list, certainly could be a factor, though there isn’t much to like about what Shaw has done at the plate this season.
After hitting .258/.347/.497 with 63 homers over his first two seasons in Milwaukee, Shaw has managed only a .166/.278/.293 slash line and six home runs through 209 plate appearances this year. His power numbers and contact rates have cratered while his strikeouts have gone through the roof, as Shaw’s 33% strikeout rate and 13.4% swinging strike rate are far and away his career highs.
Shaw still had two option years remaining, and was earning $4.675MM this season in his first of three arbitration-eligible years. While it isn’t a stretch to consider if Shaw could be a non-tender candidate this winter, there’s still lots of time for him to get on track against Triple-A pitching and again contribute to the Brewers this season. While Hiura is certainly the Brew Crew’s second baseman of the future and potentially the present, Shaw could again be an option at third base since Mike Moustakas is only signed through this season, as he and the Brewers share an $11MM mutual option for 2020. Moustakas has been lacking in free agent suitors in each of the last two seasons, though one would think he’ll decline his side of that option to again seek a multi-year commitment, given that the Moose is enjoying his finest season at the plate.
Looking even longer-term, even if Hiura spends the rest of the season on the Brewers’ big league roster, he won’t amass enough Major League service time to himself qualify for future Super Two status.
Hiura has played exclusively as a second baseman during his young career, so his addition to the roster will almost mean that Moustakas will again be spending much of his time at the hot corner. Playing second base for the first time in his MLB career this season, Moustakas ended up acquitting himself decently well at the keystone (+1 Defensive Runs Saved, -1.6 UZR/150), and obviously the position switch had no impact on Moustakas’ ability to hit.