The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of excitement brewing on the pipeline. Some of those players have helped lately at the big league level, like Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl, while other like Tyler Glasnow, Josh Bell and Austin Meadows seem like they are knocking on the door as they await a spot to open for their arrival.
The depths of the Pirates system have even more to offer on the horizon. The first-place Altoona Curve in Double-A is stacked with talented, top prospects like Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez. In a system lacking in a big-time power bat, Ke’Bryan Hayes is maturing in the South Atlantic League.
Hayes was drafted by the Pirates in last June’s MLB Draft, selected 32nd overall out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas. Baseball DNA is, of course, in Hayes’ blood; his family lineage made him seemingly destined for the big leagues at a young age. His father Charlie hit .266 with 144 home runs over a solid, 14-year MLB career, etching his name in New York Yankees lore with the famous last catch of the 1996 World Series. His brother Tyree pitched for six seasons in the Tampa Bay Rays minor league system.
Ke’Bryan may be better than both.
The 6-foot-1, 210 pound right-handed hitting third baseman had a promising debut as an 18-year old in the Gulf Coast League. He slashed .333/.434/.375 over 175 plate appearances. He didn’t show much power, logging only five extra-base hits of his 48 total, but he showed an advanced plate discipline — striking out 24 times, while walking 22 — and sound base-path awareness — stealing seven bases in eight opportunities — despite lackluster speed.
His play at the Rookie-ball level earned him a late-season promotion to the New York-Penn League. He struggled a bit, going 9-for-41 at the plate, but he again showed it wasn’t from not making contact as he struck out just seven times and walked six. Again, Hayes, whose athletic frame seems to scream power-hitter, posted a goose egg in the home run column, ending his rookie campaign with none.
Hayes seemingly found his home run stroke in 2016, ironically with the West Virginia… Power.
Hayes had already shown that he had line drive ability, with gap-to-gap power behind a solid approach at the plate. This season, he has taken it to the next level en route to a starting spot on the South Atlantic All-Star team.
Though he has been slumping a bit in June, Hayes has been hitting all season. He is currently batting .267 but was hovering around the .300 mark for most of the season up until late May. He has 62 hits, 18 of which have gone for extra bases as he has 11 doubles and six home runs. He has an uncharacteristic 46-to-15 strikeout-to-walk ratio, but with 17 of those strikeouts coming during his recent June struggles, it isn’t alarming just yet. Everyone goes through slumps, especially a 19-year old playing against reasonably older, advanced competition.
He stands tall at the plate, and with good bat speed and a level approach, Hayes’ biggest asset is that he can spray the ball around to all fields, and is quite the successful opposite-field hitter. He is in outstanding shape, as expected when his childhood coach was both his father and a World Series champion. The adjustment to the minor leagues has been a seemingly-easy transition for the teenager as he already had a familiarity from his brother and father, an advantage that can’t be overlooked.
For more on the rise of Hayes and to watch some video of him in action, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full article.