Pittsburgh Pirates: Projecting the Team’s 2023 Line Up

BRADENTON, FL- FEBRUARY 22: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws during a game against the Minnesota Twins on February 21, 2020 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
BRADENTON, FL- FEBRUARY 22: Oneil Cruz #61 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws during a game against the Minnesota Twins on February 21, 2020 at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /
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FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 29: Ke’Bryan Hayes #13 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at Century Link Sports Complex on February 29, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
FORT MYERS, FLORIDA – FEBRUARY 29: Ke’Bryan Hayes #13 of the Pittsburgh Pirates in action during the spring training game against the Minnesota Twins at Century Link Sports Complex on February 29, 2020 in Fort Myers, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

Third Base: Ke’Bryan Hayes

2023 Opening Day Age: 26

If there’s anything that’s for sure about Ke’Bryan Hayes, it’s his defensive ability. He’s one of the best fielders in the minor leagues, regardless of position. FanGraphs gives his fielding ability a current of 60 with a future of 70. He also has a strong arm with a 60 current/future grade.

Not only is Hayes a fantastic fielder, but he can run a bit too. In the past three seasons, Hayes has stolen 52 bases in 63 attempts. FanGraphs sees him as a future above average runner with a 55 speed grade.

Batting wise, he did struggle at Triple-A but mostly for the first half. He only hit .245/.336/.398 before the All-Star Break, but .290/.336/.435 post-break. However, he did really well at Double-A a year prior. In 2018, he hit .293/.375/.444 with 31 doubles, and a 129 wRC+.

Hayes’ biggest issue in 2019 was his ground ball rate. He only had a 40.3% ground ball rate in 2018, but at Triple-A the following year, that rose to 46.3%. Hayes makes really hard contact. His average exit velocity was 92 MPH, which is one of the highest among all prospects, and is right on par with big time power hitting prospects like Jo Adell, Joey Bart, and Marco Luciano.

In comparison to the MLB, a 92 MPH exit velocity, which is exactly what Juan Soto had, would place him in the top 94th percentile of all MLB batters. While his game and raw power tool sit in the average range, he still has a plus hit tool of 55 future. Hayes has the potential to be a .290/.360/.430 hitter in the future, along with some of the best glove work in all of baseball. That’s shown in his placement as the 30th best prospect in baseball, and could climb into the top 25 by the end of the year if he still has prospect status.

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