If there is a 2020 MLB it will be modified and be unlike any that has been played before it. This should open the door for Ke’Bryan Hayes, the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospect, to start the season with the MLB team.
While there is still no guarantee the 2020 MLB season will be played, with each passing day there appears to be optimism that the season will happen. If there is a 2020 season it will lead to a lot of modifications around baseball, and these modifications will impact every team, the Pittsburgh Pirates included.
There has been a proposal that would see teams play in whichever stat they play their spring training games in, either Florida or Arizona, and play in modified divisions within the Grapefruit or Cactus League. Another proposal has teams playing at their home stadiums, just without fans to start, in one of three 10 team divisions based on geography. Either way, the Pittsburgh Pirates would be playing against different divisional foes in 2020 than they normally would.
In addition to these modifications, there seems to be a growing belief there will not a minor league baseball season in 2020. It is also widely believed that there will be expanded rosters at the MLB level.
If these two things occur, or even if one of them occur, that should open the door for one of the Pittsburgh Pirates top prospects to start the season at the MLB level. That player is third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes.
There was already a strong argument to be made for Hayes to start the season with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Colin Moran is the team’s current third baseman, but he is a below average hitter and one of the worst defensive third basemen in baseball.
Hayes needs to improve his offense, but he would already be a Gold Glove caliber defender at third. While you want to see his power improve, he already possesses above league average on base ability. Additionally, his exit velocity (92 MPH) at Triple-A in 2019 was well above average. The issue was he hit too many balls on the ground. He spent the off-season working on fixing this issue, and the early returns in spring training prior to the coronavirus pandemic suspending play pointed toward Hayes making big strides in this area.
There is little doubt that Hayes would be heads and shoulders above Moran as a MLB third baseman. Despite this, the belief is Hayes will start the 2020 season back at Triple-A. However, the modifications to the MLB schedule due to the coronavirurs pandemic could change this.
First off, if there are expanded rosters that opens a spot for Hayes. He could play at third base every day, while Moran serves as a back up at third and first base. Moran could also serve as the team’s primary pinch hitting option, which is something he excels at.
Second, without a minor league season it makes zero sense for prospects such as Hayes who are knocking on the door of the MLB level to not spend the season in the Majors. It would be a waste of a season for players in that category to not spend the entire season at the MLB level, especially someone like Hayes who was believed to be the team’s starting third baseman before the end of 2020.
Finally, with a shortened season the issues that typically keep prospects at the minor league level, such as Super Two status, may not be an issue. Even if it is, with a shortened season Hayes should still start the season at the MLB level. If nothing else, he is already the Pittsburgh Pirates best option for third base.
If/when the 2020 MLB season begins, the Pittsburgh Pirates should be playing one of their top prospects on an every day basis. With the likeliness of expanded roster and no minor league season, that only adds to the reasons why the Hayes Era in Pittsburgh should begin when the 2020 season does.