Rookie Review: Has Keston Hiura Emerged As An Elite Option Or Will He Regress In 2020?

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There was a lot of hype surrounding Keston Hiura entering 2019, though there were questions as to if he’d be able to find regular AB in the Milwaukee lineup.  When Travis Shaw imploded, both due to injuries and terrible performance, the opportunity arose and Hiura seemingly seized the opportunity and emerged as a can’t miss fantasy option:

314 At Bats
.303 Batting Average (95 Hits)
19 Home Runs
49 RBI
51 Runs
9 Stolen Bases
.368 On Base Percentage
.570 Slugging Percentage
.402 Batting Average on Balls in Play

There’s no questioning his power potential, as he totaled 39 doubles, 3 triples and 38 HR between Triple-A and the Majors last season.  Maybe you don’t believe quite this type of power pace (he posted a 36.5% HR/FB at Triple-A, 24.1% in the Majors), and that will have an impact on his average, but there are two other issues that can’t be overlooked:

Luck

Does anyone truly believe in a .402 BABIP?  The underlying metrics are all promising, and do support an elevated mark:

  • Hard% – 44.2%
  • Oppo% – 29.3%
  • Flyball Rate – 38.0%

He hit the ball hard while using the entire field and didn’t focus on hitting home runs.  That’s an ideal makeup for a strong average, but thinking he’ll continue to carry such a bloated BABIP would obviously be misguided.  Just a drop down to the .350-.360 range (and it could fall further) would have a dramatic impact.

Strikeouts

This is the bigger concern, after he posted a 30.7% strikeout rate in the Majors and struggled to make consistent contact regardless of the level (13.9% SwStr% at Triple-A, 17.5% in the Majors).  Against more advanced pitching it was all types of pitches that he simply couldn’t make contact against (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 15.38%
  • Breaking Balls – 24.73%
  • Offspeed – 24.75%

Opposing pitchers don’t need to make any adjustments in their approach against Hiura, but having seen 64.66% hard pitches during his rookie season it’s possible that they do.  It’s something to watch closely, because continued strikeout troubles coupled with a drop in his BABIP (and even if it’s just a small downturn in his power) will have a disastrous effect on his AVG.

Conclusion

No one is about to say that Hiura is a player to ignore heading into 2020, especially as one who should provide 30/15 type numbers over a full season in the Majors.  The problem is that you need to go in expecting a number closer to .250-.260 as opposed to the .300+ he provided during his rookie season.  That’s going to keep his value limited, though even at that type of mark he’s a Top 10 option at his position.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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