MILWAUKEE – One day the Milwaukee Brewers bats first came to life this season, one of them was noticeably missing.
As the Brewers combined five homers – including two each by Kolten Wong and Tyrone Taylor – in their 10-7 loss to the Tigers on Monday, Keston Hiura went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, digging even deeper in a frustrating season. – a long crisis that seems to have only worsened since the return of a temporary demotion to AAA class in Nashville last month.
“He hasn’t had a good night since coming back,” said Brewers manager Craig Counsell.
Milwaukee hoped that playing in a lower pressure environment like Nashville, with some time for a mental break, would help him recover from an abysmal start that saw him beat .152 with just one home run and 32 strikeouts in 89 home plate appearances.
At first, the movement seemed to work. Hiura returned home to California, where he spent time with his mother who is undergoing chemotherapy, then traveled to Nashville where he posted garish numbers (.438 /.526 / .906 with six doubles, three home runs and a 1,433 OPS) over nine games.
“He accepted the assignment and did all he could,” said Counsell upon Hiura’s return. “He’s proven himself and us that he’s ready to come back. So we’re glad it was quick. Hopefully that got him right and we can put him behind us.
Unfortunately for the Brewers, that was not the case. Since returning on May 24, Hiura is 1 for 23 with two walks and 13 strikeouts, dropping his batting average to 0.127 with an OPS of 0.435.
“Keston’s streak of success there didn’t translate into here,” Counsell said. “We have to assess it, there is no doubt about it.”
Hiura is hardly alone in his offensive battles. Offense has been a problem all season for Milwaukee, who began their day off last Wednesday in the National League with a batting average of 0.211, 13th in slugging (0.363) and 14th in OPS (0.659) while retiring. 552 times on takes. , just behind the Phillies.
Christian Yelich hits 0.250 after being 1 for 5 on Tuesday, but 6 for 38 (0.158) since returning from the injured list on May 18. Travis Shaw’s average has fallen to 0.199 for the year after going 4 for 40 in his last 16 games while Jackie Bradley Jr. is hitting just 0.150 this season as he adjusts to league pitchers. national after eight seasons with the Red Sox.
The Brewers aren’t too concerned about Yelich, who won back-to-back batting titles in 2018 and 19 and has proven himself. Shaw’s collapse is problematic, but the ability to curl him up with Luis Urias or Daniel Robertson makes him less difficult and the Brewers have similar options to cover Bradley in the outfield, including Taylor who returned to Milwaukee when Lorenzo Cain is went on the IL Tuesday.
With Hiura, however, the Brewers have no obvious alternative.
Daniel Vogelbach moved to the everyday role at first base when Hiura was demoted. The Brewers don’t see him as a long-term solution to the position, and he, too, hasn’t beaten the bat as expected (.204 / .323 / .324, three homers, .647 OPS).
“We need more production from there,” Counsell said. “It is essential.”
A lack of viable options at the minor league level further complicates the situation.
None of the top 30 team prospects according to MLBPipeline.com are first basemen and only one – Jesus Parra, ranked No. 21 – has experience on the infield. Parra, however, is only 18 years old and with only 65 games of Dominican Summer League experience, he is far from being part of a big league team.
Milwaukee might consider Zac Green, who is hitting .267 with nine home runs, 26 RBIs and a 1.001 OPS in Nashville. Green, 27, has played primarily third base for the Sounds this season, but has first made 188 appearances (182 starts) during his minor league career, including three so far this season.
Adding Green would present an additional challenge as he’s not currently on the 40-player roster, so the Brewers would have to remove someone from the roster in order to create space for him at the big league level.
That leaves Hiura, for now, to figure things out on his own and get back to the form that has made him the franchise’s most touted offensive prospect since Ryan Braun.
His teammates are confident he will do just that.
“He will end up spinning for him,” said starting right-hander Corbin Burnes. “I think the team will be a lot better and in a much better place once he hits the bat because obviously it’s a huge impact bat. He does a great job every day, good energy and goes to work and does everything he can to turn the situation around. “