The Brewers announced they’ve optioned infielder Keston Hiura to Triple-A Nashville. Right-hander Luis Perdomo was selected onto the major league roster in a corresponding move. Milwaukee already had a pair of vacancies on the 40-man roster, which sits at 39 after Perdomo’s addition.
It’s another setback for Hiura, who has run into a series of struggles over the past couple years. Selected ninth overall in the 2017 draft, Hiura was regarded as a bat-first second baseman who could move quickly through the minor leagues. That proved to be the case, as he’d reached the majors by the middle of the 2019 season. The UC-Irvine product was excellent as a rookie, posting a .303/.368/.570 line with 19 home runs over his first 84 MLB games.
That was stellar production that seemed to cement Hiura’s status as the second baseman of the future, but it came with a surprisingly high 30.7% strikeout rate. Swing-and-miss hadn’t really been a concern for the right-handed hitter either in college or during his first season and a half in the minors, but the punchouts began to mount when he first reached Triple-A in 2019. Hiura showed as a rookie he could still be productive while fanning in three of every ten trips to the dish, but those concerns have become even more pronounced since that season.
Hiura played in 59 of the Brew Crew’s 60 games in 2020, but he hit only .212/.297/.410 with a 34.6% strikeout rate. Milwaukee signed Kolten Wong to take the primary second base job in 2021, leaving Hiura to split time between the keystone and first base. He bounced up and down from Nashville a few times while posting a .168/.256/.301 line and going down on strikes in just under 40% of his plate appearances.
In an effort to curb the swing-and-miss issues, Hiura set out to simplify his swing mechanics this past offseason. That hasn’t yet paid off; he has struck out in 20 of his first 42 trips on the season, and his 58.8% rate of contact on swings isn’t too dissimilar from his 2020-21 marks. Hiura hasn’t had a ton of playing time behind Wong and first baseman Rowdy Tellez, who is off to a scorching start to the season. The Brewers will send him back to Nashville — where he had strong results despite a lot of strikeouts last year — for more regular playing time.
Still yet to turn 26, Hiura has a bit of time to figure things out. His service clock could begin to force the issue after this season, though. Hiura entered the year with two years and 30 days of MLB service. Players are credited with a full year for spending 172 days on an MLB roster or injured list, meaning he needs 142 days in the bigs this year to keep his trajectory towards free agency after the 2025 season. There’s also a possibility of Hiura reaching arbitration eligibility as a Super Two qualifier but falling short of the three-year mark depending on how much time he spends in the minors.
Of course, the service time component is only relevant for Milwaukee if Hiura proves worthy of a long-term roster spot. He has one minor league option year remaining. If he spends 20+ days in the minors this season, he’ll exhaust that final option in 2022. That’d mean Milwaukee has to carry Hiura on the active roster out of camp next year if they don’t want to make him available to other teams. Much of how the Brewers proceed will no doubt be determined by whether he gets the strikeouts under control over the next few months.
As for Perdomo, he makes his return to the majors after missing all of last year recovering from Tommy John surgery. A former Rule 5 pick of the Padres, the righty intermittently flashed upside revolving around a mid-90s sinker that regularly induced huge ground-ball totals. Perdomo never missed many bats and occasionally battled control issues, though, and he posted an ERA of 4.00 or higher in all five of his seasons in San Diego.
After Perdomo went under the knife in October 2020, the Friars released him. Milwaukee signed him to a two-year minor-league contract with an eye towards 2022, and he’s earned his way back with a very nice start in Nashville. The 28-year-old (29 next week) has allowed just three runs in 12 innings with the Sounds. He’s fanned 13 and only walked a pair, and he has racked up grounders at a massive 71% clip early in the year. He’ll add a grounder-oriented, multi-inning relief option for manager Craig Counsell — a role that was filled by José Ureña until the latter was designated for assignment on Monday.