The 2020 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates was not one to be remembered fondly by the organization or fans. Still, amidst all that anguish came one obvious and bright star: Rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes.
Fans of the Pirates waited patiently for Hayes to make his much anticipated entrance to Major League Baseball. In a season where players needed reps any way they could get them, it was just a matter of time before Hayes was called up.
That call finally came about halfway through the season and Hayes ultimately played in 24 games. That was fewer games than many would’ve liked to see him, but that’s what we were stuck with this year.
And what did Hayes do once he arrived? Oh, nothing much, just raked in an 1.124 OPS with five home runs, a 195 wRC+, and 1.7 fWAR. His slash line was .376/.442/.682.
So what should we expect from Hayes going forward? Probably not what we saw for half of an already shortened season. That’s not to say Hayes won’t be a productive player for years to come in Pittsburgh or, as Pirates’ fans might say, somewhere other than Pittsburgh.
Firstly, the sample size was too small to draw any definitive conclusions. Secondly, his BABIP was an outrageous .450. That’s not normal even for the greatest players, but it is indicative of a great streak for a portion of the season — something that Hayes will likely do several times throughout his career.
I’m sure I sound like a downer. “Hayes can’t be as good as he was this season.” I understand, but that’s not what I’m doing. I’m just trying to be reasonable. But he did make contact nearly 45 percent of the time; that’s either a product of excellent pitch recognition and execution or pitchers being unable to figure out Hayes’ weaknesses early on — something that assuredly will change as he heads into and through next season.
A few things to note: his Swinging Strike percentage was at seven percent this year which, over the course of a full season, would put him in the top 20 in baseball in that category. Another point to note is his swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone, which he did nearly 30 percent of the time. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible, either.
If I had to conjure averages for how Hayes might perform on a more regular basis, it might look something like this: .310/.385/.560, with a wRC+ of 122, and 20 home runs. Those are good numbers for anybody, but especially a Pittsburgh Pirate.