StaTuesday: Brewers 2B Hiura’s spectacular rookie season

It wasn’t a matter of if Keston Hiura would arrive for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2019, it was when.

While fans were clamoring for the recall of the No. 9 overall pick from the 2017 draft as early as, well, spring training, Hiura didn’t land with the Brewers until May 14. He stayed only a couple weeks, but was back at the end of June, this time here to stay.

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Hiura turned out to be as good as advertised at the plate.

He finished second on Milwaukee to only Christian Yelich in batting average (.303), slugging percentage (.570) and OPS (.938), and was third on the club in on-base percentage (.368).

Since 2000, Hiura’s .938 OPS is 11th-highest among rookies with at least 300 plate appearances. Of the 10 players with a higher OPS, five were rookies of the year and two more (the Astros’ Yordan Alvarez and the Mets’ Pete Alonso) could win the award in 2019.

HIGHEST ROOKIE OPS (MIN. 300 PA) SINCE 2000

PLAYER TEAM YEAR PA OPS
Yordan Alvarez Astros 2019 369 1.067
Aaron Judge Yankees 2017 678 1.049
Albert Pujols Cardinals 2001 676 1.013
Ryan Braun Brewers 2007 492 1.004
Fernando Tatis Jr. Padres 2019 372 .969
Jose Abreau White Sox 2014 622 .964
Mike Trout Angels 2012 639 .963
Chris Duncan Cardinals 2006 314 .952
Lance Berkman Astros 2000 417 .949
Pete Alonso Mets 2019 693 .941
Keston Hiura Brewers 2019 348 .938

But Hiura has a leg up on the other 10 – his position.

Among second baseman in MLB history, only one rookie who played at least half of his games at that position that season with at least 300 plate appearances had a better OPS than Hiura: Pete Browning, who played for the Louisville Eclipse of the American Association in 1882. We’ll save you the math, that was 137 years ago.

In fact, of the top-five OPS by a rookie second baseman (using the above qualifies), two played in the American Association and another in the Federal League.

HIGHEST ROOKIE OPS FOR 2B IN MLB HISTORY

PLAYER TEAM YEAR PA OPS
Pete Browning Eclipse 1882 314 .940
Keston Hiura Brewers 2019 348 .938
Cupid Childs Stars 1890 571 .915
Duke Kenworthy Packers 1914 617 .896
Ryan Schimpf Padres 2017 330 .869
Brandon Lowe Rays 2019 327 .850
Joe Gordon Yankees 1938 519 .843
Luis Arraez Twins 2019 366 .838
Keith Lockhart Royals 1995 300 .833
Jim Viox Pirates 1913 579 .826

As one might expect given the numbers above, Hiura had one of the top first seasons in Brewers history. In fact, it can be easily categorized as the franchise’s second-best rookie year, behind just Ryan Braun’s award-winning 2007 season.

Hiura joined Braun as the only Brewers rookies with an .900+ OPS.

PLAYER YEAR PA OPS
Ryan Braun 2007 492 1.004
Keston Hiura 2019 348 .938
Casey McGehee 2009 394 .859
Jesus Aguilar 2017 311 .837
Prince Fielder 2006 648 .831

Hiura was also the fourth Brewers rookie to hit .300 in his first year, and had the third-best mark overall.

PLAYER YEAR PA AVG
Ryan Braun 2007 492 .324
Scott Podsednik 2003 628 .314
Keston Hiura 2019 348 .303
Casey McGehee 2009 394 .301
B.J. Surhoff 1987 445 .299

And Hiura might have only played in 84 games, but only Braun and Prince Fielder had more home runs in a Brewers rookie season than Milwaukee’s second baseman.