At the start of this crazy, wacky season, I thought we were not going to see many players making their debut. I mean, how many could feasibly make their debut in a 60 game sprint? Well, over 200 players have made their debut this year! That is really unbelievable. One of my favorite prospects made their debut this month and has really hit the ground running in Pittsburgh. One of my favorite positions in baseball is third base. Maybe it is partially because I played that position when I played softball but some of the best players in the game have played there. Anyway, lets take a deeper look into Ke’Bryan Hayes’ career to date.
How did we get here?
Ke’Bryan Hayes, the son of Charlie Hayes (a third baseman himself), was committed to play for the University of Tennessee after hitting .436 with 27 RBI in his senior year of high school. After being selected 32nd overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015, he decided to enter professional baseball. After being drafted, he played in 56 games between the GCL and Low-A hitting a combined .308 with 20 RBI. The Pirates have moved him up about a level per year, which makes sense for a prep player. After struggling offensively in 2016 that is, if you call a .263 AVG and 104 wRC+ struggling, Hayes’ offensive production started to catch up to his glove. In 2018, he hit .293 but what was more impressive was the jump in power. He hit only 16 doubles and 2 home runs in 108 games in High-A but jumped all the way to 31 doubles and 7 home runs when he made it to Double-A. It wasn’t a one year fluke either.
As you can see, Hayes saw a huge jump in his average flyball distance in 2018 and it continued into 2019. He started off the 2019 season slow and landed on the IL with a fractured left finger in the middle of June. He returned to action in July and saw a power explosion. He slashed .327/.379/.453 with four doubles and three homeruns. He even threw in two stolen bases for good measure.
Hayes’ year so far
He started the season later than most rookies this year mainly because he did not arrive at Summer Camp on time due to a COVID diagnosis. It also didn’t help matters that Colin Moran was knocking the snot out of the ball at the beginning of the season. However, on September 1st Hayes finally got the call and made his debut against the Chicago Cubs. Let’s see how his debut went.
Hayes hit an absolute laser to center field in his fourth at-bat to go along with a double in his second at-bat. Hayes has a smooth, compact swing that can easily get to balls in and around the strike zone. As of this post, Hayes has a 45.2 Swing%, which is league average, but a 93.2 Zone Contact% which is about ten percentage points above the league average. To me, that screams ‘If you put it in the zone, I’m going to hit it’. As of this article, Hayes is slashing .329/.395/.603 with four home runs, four doubles, and one stolen base. Sure, this is a very VERY small sample size (only 81 plate appearances) but I have been pleased with the amount of contact he is making and a 7.7 SwStk% is in line with what he was doing in the minor leagues. Also of note, Hayes is a magnificent defender on the Hot Corner, which will keep in the lineup even if he struggles at the plate.
While Hayes is having an excellent start to his career, it does not take a rocket scientist to state that his .329 AVG is not sustainable. However, I do think he will hit above league average and hover around .285 to .295 for most of his career. I also think has he continues to mature, his power numbers will start to tick up. I think it is reasonable to put his homerun totals around 20-25 homeruns and if he continues to hit second or third in the Pirates lineup, he should put up plenty of runs and RBI.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Rick Orengo (@OneFiddyOne on Twitter)