Black MLB Players You Need To Know About #23: Ke’Bryan Hayes

Background + Path To The MLB

Ke’Bryan Hayes is a 24-year-old third baseman from Tomball, Texas that plays for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hayes is the son of former professional baseball player Charlie Hayes, who had a 13 year career in Major League Baseball. Ke’Bryan’s older brother Tyree Hayes played Minor League Baseball for seven years after getting drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 8th round of the 2006 MLB Draft.

Ke’Bryan Hayes was ranked as one of the top 25 high school players in the nation his senior year of high school by Perfect Game, a respected scouting entity for amateur baseball. Hayes was drafted with the 32nd overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, receiving a $1,855,000 dollar signing bonus after agreeing to terms. He had a full scholarship to the University of Tennesee for collegiate baseball but forewent that scholarship to begin his professional career straight out of high school.

During the early part of his professional career, Hayes was seen as an athletic glove-first prospect that had a chance to be an everyday player if his offensive tools at the plate took steps forward. Hayes put up above-average numbers in the lower minors based on WRc+ via FanGraphs and DRC+ via Baseball Prospectus, alleviating some concerns of evaluators throughout the various realms of baseball of whether he could be a competent player offensively. Hayes’ baserunning acumen also impressed scouts and evaluators.

As Hayes climbed the ladder to the major leagues, his value also rose. After putting up a .293/.375/.444 slash line in his first 117 games at Double-A in 2018 while walking almost as much as he struck out, Hayes was seen as a top 100 prospect by respected scouting entities from 2019 forward. While many projected Hayes to be an everyday third baseman whose value was centered around his ability to play defense and run the bases, his ability to hit exceeded the expectations of pretty much everyone. This made his value skyrocket from an average everyday player that could win Gold Gloves to being projected as an individual that could be an All-Star level player at the hot corner.

During the shortened 2020 season, Ke’Bryan Hayes made his MLB debut. He absolutely torched major league pitching, putting up a .376/.442/.682 slash line in 24 games. He continued to show growth in the batter’s box by hitting for power and contact at an unprecedented level. Hayes has amassed a lot of hype due to the success he had in his first stint in the big leagues, but he has earned it due to the work he has put in to take steps forward as a player. Hayes led all rookie position players in the National League in WAR per Fangraphs and was second among all rookies behind Kyle Lewis.

Player Profile

Ke’Bryan Hayes is 6'1'’, and weighs 210 pounds. He plays third base, and throws and bats right-handed. Hayes has an average frame that is built well, showing wiry strength. He has developed muscle over the years but not at the expense of his above-average athleticism.

Offensively, Hayes has shown an above-average ability to make contact and has a great approach at the plate throughout his professional career. He draws walks and has an all fields approach, spraying the ball all over the place. He did not have high strikeout rates in the minor leagues, which was a sign that he could compete against big league pitchers. Hayes’ ability to drive the ball for extra-base hits is a recent development, but continuing to show signs of growth at the major league level is an indicator of future success.

Hayes’ minor league spray chart illustrates his ability to hit the ball to all fields

Hayes was rated as one of the best defensive players in the minor leagues, and many have tabbed him as a future perennial Gold Glove winner at third base. He has lateral quickness, footwork, arm strength, and the rest of the tools needed to play third base at the major league level. His defense was the carrying tool to his profile when he was younger, which is a testament to his ability with the glove.

Hayes has 60-grade speed on the 20–80 scouting scale and has shown the ability to steal bases in the minor leagues. While I am not sure about how much of a green light he will get in the majors, I believe that he will put up positive values based on baserunning metrics regardless of whether he frequently attempts to steal bases or not.

Conclusion

Ke’Bryan Hayes has an All-Star level ceiling due to the tools that comprise his profile combined with his work ethic and makeup. Hayes started taking hundreds of swings when he was a child, and his obsession with working hard on and off the diamond is still prevalent. The exponential growth he showed in the minor leagues is a product of his work ethic, and I am excited to see how he performs in his first full season in the majors. Hayes has five-tool player written all over him, and I am ready to see how he uses those tools between the lines.

https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/ke-bryan-hayes-663647?stats=career-r-visuals-mlb

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=hayes-000keb

https://www.baseballprospectus.com/player/106121/

sports journalist, film director, writer of novels/screenplays/comics, etc.

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