Ke'Bryan Hayes - Future All Star 3B
Ke'Bryan Hayes was drafted by the Pirates back in 2015 in the first round. At the time, he was noted as, "an advanced high school hitter who doesn't try too much at the plate". This doesn't sound like the resounding feedback that a first round pick would normally have. His first two years saw injuries take some developmental time away from him, but in 2017, Hayes bounced back. He won the first of his three consecutive MiLB Gold Gloves at third, and was named to the Futures game in 2018. His minor league stats were slightly above average at the plate, (462 career games, 202 RBIs, .745 OPS), but hit this shortened season as a impactful veteran.
Called up with 24 games left to play, Hayes was the lightning that the Pirates lineup needed. Hayes even pushed to grab Rookie of the Year, and I'm sure he would have won it if not for the lack of playing time. Hayes' slash line was .376/.442/.682/1.124 with five homers, eleven RBIs, and even two intentional walks. He ranks the 15th best prospect in the Majors right now and the best Bucco in the Minor Leagues.
Hayes just missed being a qualified player in the majors last year due to lack of innings and plate appearances, so instead of percentiles, you'll see ranks and actual stats. As always, green is above average, black is average, and blue is below average
Outs Above Average (OAA) T4 among all 3B
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS): 4
Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR): .5
Perhaps Hayes' best attribute is his fielding. Fangraphs has his current value at 60, with a potential for 70 which would put him into Arenado/Chapman territory. It should come as no surprise given his 198 innings at 3B this year that Hayes has the talent to make the incredible plays. Here's a great example from the Minors last year:
Saving four runs in a third of the innings as the players around Hayes on the leaderboard is no small feat. His arm grades out well at a 60 to couple with that 70 future value fielding. If it weren't for the Pirates ultra conservative approach to their prospects, I would safely say he's a starting caliber third basemen based off of his defense alone.
xBA .300 (2nd among Rookies)
xwOBA .356 (2nd among Rookies)
K% League Average (21.1%)
Whiff: 18.1% (6% under LA)
Why would anyone get excited over a worm burner up the middle of the infield for a single? Well, watch:
Did you see it? You may have missed it. That single was his fastest ball hit all year at 110.3 MPH. For reference, the hardest hit ball all year was Giancarlo Stanton's mammoth shot at 121.3 MPH. Every bit of contact Ke'Bryan makes usually is hit hard. We'll get more into that in the next section. Focus in on these three graphs showing BA, expected BA, and wOBA:
Ke'Bryan's slash line this year was .376/.442/.682/1.124. He excels at hitting the ball in practically every zone except high and inside. He loves to extend his arms and uses his above average speed to leg out base hits. The drop off doesn't seem to steep from BA to expected BA. Typically, a hot hitter will see a steep decline between the two numbers due to the ball finding the outfield grass, or poor infield play. Speaking of balls in play, Ke'Bryan almost recorded a hit on all of his balls in play, with a .450 BABIP. Another factor in this is his lack of Launch Angle. The MLB average stays right around 12 degrees. Ke'Bryan was right around 7.4 degrees. Hard hit low baseballs tend to be base hits more often, but you already knew this. Perhaps his only hiccup is hitting a breaking ball. Hayes whiffs 33.3% of the time with an xBA of .243.
Hitting for Power
Exit Velo (EV) 92.8mph (1st among Rookies)
Hard Hit: 55.4% (1st among Rookies)
xSLG: .497 (3rd among Rookies)
Barrel: 9.2% (LA 6.4%)
The potential of power for Ke'Bryan is astounding. Ranking first among rookies in clobbering the ball, and only losing out on the Barrel % to LuBob, Check out Hayes' longest homer this past year:
As mentioned in the Hitting section, Hayes excels at keeping the ball low, pumping up that EV and Hard Hit %. For a reference, his average line drive percentage is 32.3% (MLB average 25.7%). He's rarely under the ball (13.8% compared to the average of 24.3%) and makes solid contact almost double the amount of time compared to the majors (10.8% to 5.6%). He excels at smacking the offspeed pitch, with an average exit velo of 99.7mph, and keeps up with the fastball, only whiffing 10.7% of the time. Thanks to this power, Hayes could easily be the Pirates best power hitter (I realize now that's not saying much). Here's an eye opening double where he crushes a ball out of the zone off the left field wall:
Sprint Speed 79th percentile
When Hayes was drafted, he projected out a 35 for running which is about how fast I run. Ke'Bryan focused on his conditioning, leading to faster reflexes in the field and on the base path. He's now graded at a 60, and it does show here. Hayes legs out a single on a bobbled ball by Mondesi. Although sprint speed isn't a huge deal for a third basemen, any time when it's average, it's something to note for someone at the hot corner.
There's no way Hayes isn't the starting third basemen for the Buccos next year. He's shown the tools to be the 2-4 hitter in the lineup and will compete for Gold Gloves in the near future. That defense should be enough to keep in in the majors even if the bat didn't exist. I may be slightly biased thanks to my love of the Pirates, but I am confident in saying Ke'Bryan has every tool to be a cornerstone player at third base.