PITTSBURGH -- Standing on the press level at PNC Park, Ke'Bryan Hayes and J.T. Brubaker allowed themselves to think back and laugh. They were here a little more than three years ago, at the beginning of their professional careers, but it didn't feel like that long ago."Time flies," Hayes said.
PITTSBURGH -- Standing on the press level at PNC Park, Ke'Bryan Hayes and J.T. Brubaker allowed themselves to think back and laugh. They were here a little more than three years ago, at the beginning of their professional careers, but it didn't feel like that long ago.
"Time flies," Hayes said. "You've got to stay within yourself and keep working hard every day. One day, you'll have a shot."
That reality was reinforced on Friday when Hayes and Brubaker were named the Pirates' Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year, respectively, and recognized on the field before the Bucs' series opener against the Brewers at PNC Park.
"All the hard work in the offseason and Spring Training pays off," Hayes said. "Just thankful for the Pirates picking us. First-class organization, so I'm very thankful to be here."
Hayes, the Pirates' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, took a big step forward offensively and continued to shine defensively at third base this season for Double-A Altoona. The 21-year-old, accompanied on Friday by his father, Charlie, a former big leaguer, hit .293/.375/.444 with a career-high seven homers, 31 doubles and 47 RBIs in 117 games.
"He became a complete offensive player," Altoona manager Michael Ryan told MLB.com last week. "It's starting to catch up with his defense now."
That's high praise considering Ryan's evaluation of Hayes' defense. Hayes, MLB Pipeline's No. 52 overall prospect, led all Minor League third basemen with a .978 fielding percentage a year after winning a Rawlings Gold Glove Award.
"He's the best young third baseman, defensively, I've ever seen with my own eyes. You don't realize how good he is," Ryan said. "How he anticipates things, just how he does everything correctly, is something to see every day. I was lucky enough to go through that this year."
Brubaker, 24, was Pittsburgh's sixth-round Draft pick in 2015. After posting a 1.80 ERA in six starts for Altoona, the right-hander moved up to Triple-A Indianapolis and recorded a 3.10 ERA -- the seventh-best mark among International League pitchers -- over 22 starts.
"He consistently put his team in a position to win every time he took the mound, and his level of improvement from 2017 to 2018 was remarkable," senior director of Minor League operations Larry Broadway said in a statement. "As an organization, we are very proud of J.T., and he's very deserving of this award."
New Minor League affiliate
The Pirates on Friday announced a two-year development player contract with the South Atlantic League's Greensboro Grasshoppers, their new Class A affiliate. Pittsburgh had been affiliated with the Class A West Virginia Power since 2009. The Power will reportedly become the Mariners' South Atlantic League affiliate.
Greensboro has led the South Atlantic League in attendance the past two seasons while playing at First National Bank Field in downtown Greensboro, N.C.
Hurdle wishes Banister well
The Rangers on Friday dismissed manager Jeff Banister, who previously served as the Pirates' bench coach and in their organization as a Minor League manager. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle reached out to Banister after the news broke to offer his support.
"He's a good baseball man. Opportunities will present themselves," Hurdle said. "We all know walking in the door, when you get a managerial opportunity, that there's not many of us that walked out on our own volition.
"That's the great thing about this game: People can go another place and provide value or a skill or a talent and still be productive. Just because you were fired at one place doesn't mean you're a failure. It's an event, not a person. Jeff's definitely not a failure. He's a good man and a good manager."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.