The Brewers need to solve their corner infield production problem as they try to defend their NL Central title
We're more than halfway through June and the Brewers have gotten little-to-nothing on offense from first
The Brewers dropped a heart-breaker Wednesday afternoon in San Diego, falling to the Padres, 8-7. It meant that the Brewers were swept by the Padres and went 2-6 on their road trip that included a jaunt out West.
As the Brewers return home, let's ponder how little production they've gotten offensively from from first base -- a position that is supposed to be primarily an offensive one. Heading into Wednesday -- and we'll ignore Wednesday because catcher Yasmani Grandal was playing there -- Brewers first basemen were hitting .231/.335/.407 with 12 homers.
The MLB average first baseman this season: .257/.339/.465. In terms of OPS+, the Brewers check in 14 percent worse than the league average. Over at third, the Brewers have hit (again, heading into Wednesday) .220/.296/.402 against a league average slash from third baseman of .257/.329/.441 (19 percent below average in OPS+).
Keep in mind, we're dealing with lots of bad teams and the Brewers are contenders who have spent their share of time in first place.
The culprits here are Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw, who have both been lost pretty much all season at the plate. Both of them were beasts last year, which is why the Brewers are understandably hoping they break out of it. But it's June 19.
I can't help but think back to a rather nice solution here. Top infield prospect Keston Hiura was summoned from the minors to make his MLB debut earlier this season. The night of his promotion, I was speaking with a scout and he couldn't stop raving about how the ball "just explodes off the bat" of Hiura.
It's a small sample, sure, but Hiura hit .281/.333/.531 with five homers and nine RBI beforeto make room for a returning Shaw. Lest you doubt the exploding off the bat part, here's Hiura tying the game in the ninth on June 1:
He played just once more before the demotion. He's taking it well. Heading into Wednesday, Hiura has hit .273/.355/.582 with five homers and 13 RBI in 13 games.
Knowing that Hiura improves both the offense and the defense right now with the Brewers coming off a 2-6 trip, it seems as good a time as any to bring him back to Miller Park.
Speaking of the defensive configuration, second baseman Mike Moustakas is having an exceptional year. That's where Hiura needs to play. So what? Moustakas is a career third baseman, doesn't have the range for second and could probably be pressed to move to first.
If not Moose, Travis Shaw has over 800 career innings at first base. Put him there.
You know what works? If the Brewers are trying to stick with Aguilar and/or Shaw and see if they can regain some of last year's magic? Platoon the lefty Shaw with the righty Aguilar at first while they get offense from at least two of the four infield spots.
Then again, they need a roster move to add Hiura. It doesn't seem the roster is built to absorb sending down a pitcher for a position player or key bench guys like Ben Gamel or Hernan Perez. That only leaves Eric Thames and he's hitting too well to designate for assignment.
Whatever it is, the Brewers would be better with Hiura than without him right now. If both Aguilar and Shaw starting hitting again while Hiura goes through a rookie funk, it's easy to just switch things back. Hiura has options.
For now, though, it's not longer "early." The Brewers have played 74 games. They are also in a dog fight in the NL Central. It's certainly no time to mess around. Let the kid play.
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