Most Pittsburgh Pirates fans are familiar with top third base prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes, as he has been a top prospect in the organization since he was drafted by the team in the first round of the 2015 amateur draft, with the 32nd overall selection.
The 6’1” and 210-pound Hayes is the son of 14-year former major league player Charlie Hayes, who spent most of the 1996 season as a Pittsburgh Pirate. The younger Hayes is the top offensive prospect in the Pirates system, ranking only behind pitcher Mitch Keller in the organizational prospect rankings.
Also, Hayes is ranked 36th overall among all prospects in Major League Baseball. He is arguably the best defensive third base prospect in baseball as well. Hayes grades out with a 70 on a scale of 80 in defense and a 60 out of 80 in arm strength.
Last season Hayes spent most of the season at the AAA affiliate of the Pirates, the Indianapolis Indians. There he would commit just three errors on the year and would win a gold glove for the third consecutive season.
Hayes possesses an average hit tool that should allow him to hit for a decent average in the majors. Despite having excellent bat speed, the swing of Hayes currently lacks loft to it and leaves him projected as more of a line-drive hitter than a power hitter.
Hayes barrels the bat well and has excellent bat control. He is a plus athlete with a strong frame that is built perfectly to play the third base position. However, he will need to either adjust his hands or his footwork when swinging if he hopes to increase his launch angle and increase his power.
Currently, it is unlikely that he will make those adjustments, as his contact rate is above average and he possesses plus speed that will allow him to leg out additional hits when necessary.
Last season in Indianapolis, Hayes had 427 at-bats, where he hit for a .265 average with 113 hits, 10 home runs, 64 runs scored, 53 runs batted in, 90 strikeouts and 43 walks. He struggled to adjust to his first season in AAA, as he appeared to be pressing most of the season.
Hayes, who turns 23 on January 28th, had a solid walk and strikeout rates in AAA last season, despite his struggles. He was able to manage a 9% walk rate and an 18.8% strikeout rate. He would miss three weeks last season after he broke his left index finger.
The ceiling for Hayes currently projects him as a player who possesses excellent defensive metrics while hitting in the .295 range with 20-25 home runs and 15-20 stolen bases. If he can increase his power totals, Hayes projects as a legitimate 5-tool player for the Pirates.
Despite expectations otherwise, Hayes was not part of the Pirates September call-ups last season. However, he was added to the 40 man roster on November 20th, to protect him from being taken in the Rule-5 draft.
As a result, there is a chance that Hayes is allowed to be the Opening Day starting third baseman for the Pirates in 2020. He presents a massive upgrade on defense over current third baseman Colin Moran and his offensive numbers project to be at least on par with those of Moran.
For a Pirates team that is in the midst of a rebuild, they stand to lose nothing by opting to name Hayes their Opening Day starter and allowing him the opportunity to gain experience in the big leagues.
Even if new general manager Ben Cherington and manager Derek Shelton opt to have Hayes begin the season in AAA Indianapolis, the likelihood is that he will not remain down there for long.
As a result, Pirates fans should get acclimated with the likes of Hayes, as he is likely going to be a cornerstone for the organization and the man who is manning the hot corner for a long time in Pittsburgh. He possesses the tools that Pirates fans should be excited about.