When a team has two first-round picks in a Draft, the hope is it can change the fortunes of a franchise. The Pirates had just that in 2015 and it’s now looking like the left side of their infield will be filled by both choices. Top pick Kevin Newman is already the shortstop and Hayes, taken No. 32 overall in that Draft, came up to join Newman in Pittsburgh in 2020 and earned Rookie of the Year votes after hitting .376/.442/.682 during a scintillating 24-game debut.
The son of long-time big league corner infielder Charlie Hayes, Ke’Bryan has every chance to be a better big leaguer than his dad. Already considered to be one of the best defensive players in the Minors, he proved that reputation was warranted by playing outstanding defense at the hot corner in Pittsburgh, showing off outstanding range, excellent hands, a strong arm and instincts that far belie his years. He’s gotten faster as he’s matured, helping him on defense -- to the point where the Pirates actually talked about seeing if he could play elsewhere -- and on the basepaths, where he knows how to steal a base.
Hayes’ biggest improvements in 2020 came at the plate. He’s always had a hit-over-power, up-the-middle approach and people wondered when, and how much, the power would come. He’d always shown the ability to backspin the ball in batting practice, but started to show more loft in 2020, leading to 14 extra-base hits in 85 at-bats while registering one of the top hard hit percentages (55.4) in the big leagues during his brief debut. Dedicated to becoming the best at his craft, he’s ready to start reaching his ceiling as an All-Star third baseman in the National League.
2020 Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 65 | Overall: 55
The Pirates had a pair of first-round picks in the 2015 Draft. The first one was used to get Kevin Newman -- now the club's big league shortstop -- from the University of Arizona. The second pick, at No. 32 overall, netted the Pirates Hayes from the Texas high school ranks. The son of former big league third baseman Charlie Hayes, Ke'Bryan has reached the top of the Pirates' system and should join his Draft-mate on the left side of the Pirates' infield in the near future.
There's no doubt Hayes is ready to play the hot corner defensively at the highest level. He's consistently brought up in conversations about the best defensive prospects in the game at any position, and he's clearly the best third baseman in the Minors, one who will be a Gold Glove contender the minute he joins a big league roster. He has tremendous range, great footwork, plus hands and a plus arm to make him the complete package. Hayes' above-average speed helps him on that front and while he's not a burner, he's proven to be an effective basestealer.
His bat had been catching up to his glove, though that part of his game regressed for much of his 2019 season in Triple-A. He still has a solid overall approach, though his walk rate dipped last year, and there is more power for him to tap into. Hayes finished last season strong something he can use as he waits for the call to Pittsburgh to come.
2019 Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
Charlie Hayes spent parts of 14 years in the big leagues as a solid third baseman. His son, Ke'Bryan, the second of two first-round picks of the Pirates in 2015, is just about ready to reach that highest level himself. After a strong season in Double-A that included a trip to the Futures Game and an Eastern League All-Star nod, the younger Hayes has the chance to be a better all-around player than his dad.
Hayes continues to improve as a hitter. He's always had a solid approach at the plate, but it's become even more refined, with a walk rate that went up for a third straight season in 2018. So did his ability to drive the ball. While he still largely uses a contact-first approach, Hayes set career highs in extra-base hits and slugging percentage, and there's more over-the-fence power to come as he matures and continues to add strength. That might slow him down a touch, but he's still smart enough on the basepaths to steal bases. There might not be a better defensive third baseman in the Minors, with his agility, hands, arm and instincts all pointing to future Gold Glove awards.
Hayes will be 22 years old for all of the 2019 season, with plenty of room for growth from an already-impressive toolset. He has every chance to be an elite-level third baseman at the big league level.
2018 Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55
The son of long-time big league third baseman Charlie Hayes, Ke'Bryan was taken by the Pirates with the 32nd overall pick of the 2015 Draft and signed for full pick value. After a strong summer debut, Hayes was limited by a fractured rib during his full-season debut in 2016. A move to the Class A Advanced Florida State League in 2017 at age 20 didn't faze him at all.
Hayes continues to refine his advanced approach as he moves up the ladder, gaining strength and adding speed as he goes. In 2017, his walk rate went up and his strikeout rate went down as his contact-oriented philosophy worked for him. He can drive the ball to all fields and while there wasn't much power in the pitching-friendly FSL, scouts feel it will come as he continues to mature. As Hayes has gotten into better shape, he's become a much better baserunner, finishing among the league leaders in stolen bases in 2017. He's always been a gifted defender, but the added agility has led to more range and made him even stronger at the hot corner.
The upper levels of the Pirates' system should provide a good challenge for Hayes, who will play all of 2018 at age 21. There's more potential to unlock here with Hayes growing into an upper-echelon third baseman a distinct possibility.
2017 Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 45 | Run: 40 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
The Pirates don't shy away from drafting good high school position players and then sending them to full-season ball the following spring. They did it with Josh Bell, Austin Meadows, Reese McGuire and Cole Tucker, all early-round picks. So it was no surprise Hayes went straight to the South Atlantic League for his full-season debut. He held his own in the first half until what was thought to be a back injury forced him to miss most of the second half. It turned out to be a rib fracture, which is not expected to cause any long-term problems.
The son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes, Ke'Bryan has the chance to be an outstanding all-around third baseman at the big league level. He has a contact-first approach right now, content to use all fields and send line drives into the gaps. There were inconsistent glimpses of power and there should be more as he learns to turn on pitches more. A below-average runner, Hayes nonetheless has the footwork and range, not to mention excellent hands, instincts and a plus arm to be an above-average defender at the hot corner.
Hayes missed some development time in 2016, logging 252 at-bats. Assuming he can stay healthy, he should be able to re-find his approach at the plate and start moving up the organizational ladder.
2016 Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
For three years in a row, the Pirates have taken a high school position player in the first round of the Draft. In 2015, it was Hayes, the Texas high school third baseman and son of Charlie Hayes, who beat his dad's Draft slot by three rounds when Pittsburgh took him No. 32 overall.
The younger Hayes has a chance to be a better all-around player than his dad, who played for parts of 14 seasons in the big leagues. Right now, he's a hit above power kind of bat at the plate, one with an advanced approach, especially for a teenager. Hayes doesn't try to do too much, looking to hit line drives to the gaps. Most feel the power will come in time as he learns to turn on pitches more. Hayes has worked very hard on both his conditioning and his defense. While he's a below-average runner, he's shown that his hands, instincts, footwork and arm all should allow him to stay at third base long term.
Hayes' pro debut has the Bucs eager to see what he can do moving forward, with an approach that could allow him to move a bit more quickly than some high school bats.
2015 Scouting grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 50 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
The son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes, who was a fourth round pick out of high school, Ke'Bryan beat his dad by three rounds when the Pirates nabbed him at the end of the first round of the 2015 Draft.
Ke'Bryan resembles his father as a player. He's an advanced high school hitter who doesn't try to do too much at the plate. He utilizes an effortless right-handed stroke and focuses on hitting line drives from gap to gap. He can turn on pitches when opponents challenge him inside and should develop average power. He lacks speed on the bases and first-step quickness, but Hayes has worked hard to get into better shape and improve as a defender. He has good instincts, soft hands and a strong arm that should allow him to remain at third base.
Charlie Hayes had a 14-year big-league career. His son has the chance to be a better all-around player.