Breakout Candidate: Will Ke’Bryan Hayes Emerge As A Top 10 Third Baseman In 2021?

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If 2020 had been a normal season, you have to wonder how much time Ke’Bryan Hayes would’ve spent at Triple-A. Without that option the Pirates ultimately summoned the highly touted prospect to the Majors, giving him 95 PA and seeing him produce gaudy numbers:

.376, 5 HR, 11 RBI, 17 R and 1 SB

Both the average and power are going to catch your attention, but are either one believable?

Power

Whether or not Hayes would develop power was among the biggest questions facing him, after he hit 10 HR over 480 PA at Triple-A in ’19. He added 7 doubles and 2 triples in ’20, and at 23-years old (he’ll turn 24 before the start of the 2021 season) would it really be a surprise if he started to grow into his power?

A 25.0% HR/FB is likely extreme, but he held a 92.8 mph Exit Velocity tying him for 16th among players with at least 50 Batted Ball Events. Averaging 410 feet on his home runs also shows that his home runs weren’t scraping many walls, further supporting the breakout.

Further adding to the appeal is the breakdown of pitches that he homered against:

  • Fourseam – 1
  • Sinker – 1
  • Slider – 2
  • Cutter – 1

Things may slow down, but there’s reason to believe that he’s turned the corner and will be a viable power threat.

Average

We all know the average is going to fall, especially considering a .450 BABIP, but he also displayed a lot of promising metrics:

  • Hard% – 44.6%
  • Oppo% – 35.4%
  • SwStr% – 7.1%
  • O-Swing% – 28.9%

So he hit the ball hard, was willing to utilize the entire field and showed a good approach. He also showed an ability to make consistent contact against all types of pitches:

  • Hard – 5.11%
  • Breaking – 11.48%
  • Offspeed – 16.13%

Obviously as pitchers adjust and start throwing him fewer fastballs things could change, but after an 18.8% strikeout rate at Triple-A in ’19 there’s every reason to believe.

Conclusion

Obviously Hayes isn’t going to match last year’s success, but the power appears to be developing, he has the potential to hit .280+ and there’s also a little bit of speed (he stole as many as 27 bases in a minor league season). Maybe he’s not elite, but the upside is there and he should be considered a potential Top 10 option in ’21 (though the depth at the position will likely keep him just outside).

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball

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