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Q&A: Ke'Bryan Hayes pushes forward in Pirates' minor-league system

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Drafted 32nd overall in 2015, Ke'Bryan Hayes was billed as a guy with a good glove at third base and an ability to make contact. He didn't disappoint on either end last year in the Gulf Coast League, and joined the short-season Class-A West Virginia Black Bears late in the season. At 19 years old, Hayes got the push to the Class-A West Virginia Power, and he's slashed .323/.353/.484 with three home runs through Monday. He's known as former MLB veteran Charlie Hayes' son, but he's also taken plenty from the experiences of his older brother, Tyree, who pitched six seasons in the Rays and Reds systems. Here's the transcript of our chat from last weekend, slightly edited for length and clarity.

What's been going on with your good start in full-season baseball?

The big thing for me was getting in shape in the offseason, taking care of my body and trying to get stronger and lean out a little bit. Then going back into spring training and getting my feet back under me after taking off a few months of baseball.

I’m sure that’s a whirlwind, going from high school, getting drafted and playing professionally all in a few months. Stepping back a little in the offseason was a big deal for you?

Definitely getting a few months off to let my body rest a little bit was good. I just settled down with my family, spent some time with them, then got back into it, got ready for the next season.

You got an aggressive push to West Virginia as a 19-year old. Does coming from a baseball family help prepare you for that kind of challenge?

From a young age I’ve always played up. My older brother was playing and I would be out with him, even as the bat boy. I would watch him play. Coming from a baseball family, I definitely knew what the minor leagues were going to be like, the long bus rides, getting up the next day and playing. It’s not too much of a culture shock. It’s just a grind.

What's behind your offensive performance so far this season? You already have a few homers; is there more of a focus on power?

No. I’m still sticking with my gap-to-gap approach, and they say that my power will come as I mature and get older. I’m just sticking with that gap-to-gap approach.

Is (offense) any more of an adjustment for you than the defensive side?

I focus just as much on defense as offense, because you’re not going to be able to go out and get four hits every day. You want to take away their hits. Coming into pro ball I’ve been working on getting into a good position as the pitch is crossing (the plate). Compared to high school, balls get up on you a little quicker. Guys are stronger. One of the big things I want to work on for defense as I’m moving up is that and lateral movement.

What was the experience like winning a championship your first year as a pro?

I started out with the GCL team last year, and then going to (Morgantown), right when I got there everyone welcomed me. It was a different environment compared to (Florida). You could see everyone was really close with each other, going out there and doing their best for everyone. It’s definitely a great environment.