Bucs call up prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes

September 1st, 2020

Part of the Pirates’ future has arrived in Pittsburgh.

Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh's No. 2 prospect and the son of longtime big leaguer Charlie Hayes, was recalled from the Pirates’ alternate training site before Tuesday night's game against the Cubs at PNC Park. In addition, the club added outfielder Anthony Alford to the active roster and optioned outfielder Jason Martin and left-hander Brandon Waddell.

Hayes, MLB Pipeline’s No. 45 overall prospect, was the No. 32 overall pick in the 2015 Draft. The 23-year-old spent last season with Triple-A Indianapolis, slashing .265/.336/.415 with 10 homers and 53 RBIs in 110 games. It was a step back offensively, as he hit .293/.375/.444 in 117 games for Double-A Altoona the year before, but his defense never wavered.

“I think it's important that we continue to get better at the Major League level, individually and as a team. And part of getting better, certainly, will be giving players -- younger players, players who have a chance to be here for a long time – opportunity,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “It's still a meritocracy. There's still got to be competition. You're not just handed playing time. You need to invest in that, so we'll see where that takes us.”

Last year, Hayes became only the second player -- and the first since 1961 -- to win a Rawlings Minor League Baseball Gold Glove Award three years in a row. He led the Minors with a .989 fielding percentage, and he committed only 17 errors in 331 games over the last three seasons. He is often regarded as one of the best defensive prospects in baseball.

“I think there’s a lot to like about Ke’Bryan,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “No. 1, his heartbeat’s good. I think he likes the lights, and what I mean by that is he likes to play in big atmospheres. His ability to play third base, I think I said earlier, came as advertised -- if not better.

While questions remain about Hayes’ bat, he has worked well with Pirates hitting coach Rick Eckstein. In Spring Training 2019, he went 12-for-34 with three homers, four doubles and 12 RBIs. This past spring, he went 7-for-25 with a homer and more walks (five) than strikeouts (four). Both years, Hayes credited Eckstein for helping him make mechanical adjustments to his swing.

“What really stood out to me was the aggressiveness of the swings, and it’s something that I think he took to working with Rick during Spring Training,” Shelton said. “We saw it in Spring Training games.”

Hayes had an outside shot of making the Pirates’ Opening Day roster when the club reported to PNC Park for Summer Camp, but he was sidelined throughout camp after testing positive for COVID-19. He returned to the field at Pittsburgh’s alternate training site in Altoona, Pa., working his way back into game shape.

Colin Moran, who was activated from the seven-day concussion injured list on Monday, was the club’s Opening Day third baseman, but he has made more starts at first base (nine) and designated hitter (10) than at third (four).

The Pirates have been using Erik González, JT Riddle and José Osuna at third base since Phillip Evans was sidelined by season-ending injuries. For the most part, González has bounced between third base and shortstop, with Kevin Newman occasionally moving from shortstop to second base. They’ve added a new wrinkle to their infield mix recently, moving second baseman Adam Frazier to the outfield for the first time since 2018.

All of that flexibility, along with Riddle and Osuna’s ability to play the outfield, will allow the Bucs to clear the way for Hayes at third base.

“It’s something that we’ll just have to work through on a daily basis,” Shelton said. “The fact that we have flexibility and guys to go to different spots -- and now we’ve bumped Frazier into the outfield at times, we’ve seen Riddle go into the outfield at times -- so we have different functionality to move forward.”