Sell High Candidate: Is Keston Hiura Really An Elite Second Baseman?

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There were high hopes for Hiura heading into 2020, after he made a splash in his rookie campaign (.303 with 19 HR and 9 SB over 348 PA). After a disappointing season, now questions are whether the struggles were simply a sophomore slump or if there was more to it.

Hiura did hit 13 HR over 246 PA, though that doesn’t mean that there aren’t concerns there as well. Just look at how some of the underlying metrics took a step backwards:

Statistic20182019
Exit Velocity91.487.4
Launch Angle16.014.3

Despite the regressions he actually improved his HR/FB, as it went from 24.1% to 26.0%. Put it all together, along with a 29.1% Hard%, and it’s easy to say that he was lucky to salvage his season with that type of power mark.

The other concern is in his strikeout rate, as he struggled to make consistent contact with a 20.3% SwStr%. Interestingly he continued to see a steady diet of hard pitches, at 61.11%. The fact that he couldn’t make contact against them, or anything, just adds to the potential issues (Whiff%):

  • Hard – 19.83%
  • Breaking – 20.76%
  • Offspeed – 33.33%

Those numbers are cringe worthy, and it makes you wonder how quickly he can adjust. Plus, even if he’s able to cut the strikeouts marginally against fastballs what will happen if opposing starters start showing him more breaking balls or offspeed pitches? The fact that 9 of his home runs came off fourseam fastballs would appear to make that a likely scenario…

We saw some signs of the adjustment, as the number of hard pitches declined slightly as the season progressed (the low was 59.91% in September). Considering his AVG plummeted to .186 over the final month adds to the concerns.

Obviously no one is about to write off Hiura and his potential, but taking a cautious approach in 2021 makes sense. Things could easily become disastrous, and that makes him a potential sell high candidate.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Savant

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