Keston Hiura continues to struggle for the Milwaukee Brewers. The right-handed hitter did smack three home runs in his first five games back after his second demotion to the minor leagues, but in his last seven games and 30 plate appearances, he’s hitting .167/.333/.167 with 12 punchouts. For the year, he owns a .161/.251/.295 slash with four home runs and 65 strikeouts in 172 plate appearances. With Dan Vogelbach on the shelf, the Brewers have made a move to push Hiura once again at first base. This afternoon they acquired lefty slugger Rowdy Tellez from the Toronto Blue Jays.
Tellez, 26, was a 30th-round pick of the Blue Jays back in 2013 who eventually found himself ranked as in the back-end of Baseball America’s top-100 prospects (#95, 2017). He debuted at the big league level in 2018 as a 23 year old and has appeared in each of the last four MLB seasons. In 219 games and 760 plate appearances with Toronto, Tellez has hit .241/.301/.458 with 37 home runs for a 102 OPS+. Tellez mashed 21 home runs in 111 games in 2019 and appeared to be on his way to a breakout in 2020, batting .283/.346/.540 (140 OPS+) with eight home runs in 127 plate appearances during the pandemic-shortened season. Tellez fell off to a .209/.272/.338 slash line in 50 MLB games this season, though, prompting a demotion to the minors. With Vlad Guerrero, Jr. entrenched at the big league level, Tellez was deemed expendable by Toronto.
A high-strikeout hitter during his first two years in the big leagues, Tellez has improved upon that quite a bit during the 2020 and 2021 seasons. He whiffed only 15.7% of the time last season and kept things to a still-solid 21.7% rate this year, driven by an increased ability to make contact on pitches both within and outside of the strike zone. His current .245 BABIP is also 30+ points lower than his career average, which could help explain a drop in results this year. Statcast says his average exit velocity, hard contact percentage, and barrel rate are all the best of his career, and that based on the quality of his batted balls, he’s underperforming his expected wOBA by some 60 points. The Brewers may see the lefty-hitting Tellez as a candidate for improvement based upon those metrics, and they really can’t do much worse at first base. Tellez had been hitting .298/.400/.638 with four home runs through his first 13 games with Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate.
Heading to Toronto will be Trevor Richards, who the Brewers picked up along with Willy Adames in trade with Tampa Bay less than two months ago. He had settled nicely into Milwaukee’s bullpen, posting a 3.20 ERA in 19.2 innings across 15 appearances with 25 strikeouts versus nine walks. But the acquisition of Hunter Strickland, along with the emergence of Miguel Sanchez and Jake Cousins, likely made David Stearns and company comfortable once again dealing from Milwaukee’s pitching depth.
Also headed to the Blue Jays is pitching prospect Bowden Francis, a 7th-round pick by the club in 2017. The 25 year old has been a solid performer in the minors as he’s climbed the ladder, and started the year at Double-A before a promotion to Triple-A Nashville. Between those two stops, Francis had compiled a 3.62 ERA in 59.2 innings pitched with 65 strikeouts and 17 walks. He was not ranked among Milwaukee’s top-30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs