Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B
Age: 22 (1/28/97)
Level: AA - Pittsburgh Pirates
2017 A+: .278/.345/.363, 2 HR, 25 XBH, 20.4% LD, 46.3% GB, 33.3% FB, 8.5% BB, .086 ISO, .331 BABIP - 421 AB
2018: AA: .293/.375/.444, 7 HR, 45 XBH, 16.3% GB, 40.3% GB, 43.4% FB, 11.2% BB, .151 ISO, .344 BABIP - 437 AB
Stock: Trending Up
Hayes enters 2019 on a roll. He added power in Double-A, earning an invite to the 2018 Futures game. His seven home runs were a career high and at first glance of the stats, you may wonder what the fuss is about. The fuss starts with defense. Hayes grades as a 70 defender at a premium position. His defense will always keep him in the lineup, which is important for the bat to develop. The bat developed in a big way in 2018 as Hayes changed his approach to tap into his strong lower half.
The Swing Change
I saw Hayes in 2017 at Bradenton. He is a plus athlete with a strong, projectable frame. He showed excellent patience and an advanced approach. He doesn’t have the plus bat speed of other highly touted prospects, but he was strong and he had an advanced approach. Hayes has an excellent feel for the barrel and good bat control. However, in High-A, he utilized a wide base of support with minimal use of his lower half. He profiled as a potential 60 hit tool with 30 grade power. His splits were line drive/groundball heavy to all fields.
A hitter with this profile is primed for a power surge with some tweaks to his swing. Going into 2018, I had heard the rumblings from a scout that the Pirates had Hayes more upright with a small leg kick. The Hayes I saw in 2018 was looking to drive the ball. His hips were much more engaged and his balance had improved. Improving his balance allowed Hayes to stay on his back leg and drive. In 2017, Hayes was out front often and relied on strong wrists to make solid contact. Now his hips and hands are much more in sync. Better balance has led to a better approach on off-speed. Overall, his swing now was geared for consistent loft with authority.
Five home runs may not jump off the page but a closer look should you get excited about Hayes going into 2019. He added 20 extra base hits in Double-A. Additionally, slugging, ISO, BABIP all saw a jump while also improving his walk rate. Hayes’ effort to hit more flyballs also did not lead to more swing and miss. He only struck out at a 16.5 percent clip last year.
Notice how the consistency in Hayes new approach improved as the season progressed. Going into June 1, Hayes was slugging .422 with a .146 ISO.
In June, Hayes started pulling the ball in the air more often. His numbers made a huge jump with a .507 SLG and .193 ISO in June and July. Once he got hot, not only did he stay hot, but Hayes started showing more power to all fields. Notice how his pull percentage trends back to his norm but both his fly ball distance and fly ball percentage continued to rise. His SLG and ISO did drop to .439 and .121 in August, but his BABIP (.395) and OPS (.838) are nothing to scoff at.
We ranked Hayes 27th in our Top 100. He was 17th in the one I submitted to the staff. A kid with his defensive wizardry, hit tool, and walk rate should excite everybody. You start adding power, often the last tool to arrive, and we are talking about a special player. At the major league level, Hayes strikes me as the type of hitter that will rack up the doubles early while posting a solid .270-.290 average. I don’t think the over-the-fence-power necessarily shows up right away in the big leagues. Although, I wouldn’t be the slightest bit shocked if we see Hayes flirt with 20 home runs in Triple-A. At peak, Hayes will become a WAR machine with a high OBP and emerging power. I believe .290/.380/.475 with 30 doubles, 20 home runs, and 15 steals is the peak ceiling. Hayes could easily become Matt Chapman with a plus hit tool. Buy now.