Pittsburgh Pirates: Looking At Potential Extension Candidates

PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 29: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on July 29, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JULY 29: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC Park on July 29, 2020 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /
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Sep 22, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) makes a running catch to retire Chicago Cubs designated hitter Jose Martinez (not pictured) during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 22, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) makes a running catch to retire Chicago Cubs designated hitter Jose Martinez (not pictured) during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

Ke’Bryan Hayes and Bryan Reynolds

Of all the players that are on their roster, extending top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes should be above all else. Hayes looked outstanding last year. He hit .376/.442/.682 with a 195 wRC+ and 5 home runs. Outstanding numbers, but in only 95 plate appearances.

Still, Hayes showed a great ability to drive the ball. He put up a 92.8 MPH exit velocity and 55.4% hard hit rate. Hayes has always had the ability to drive the ball hard seeing as his exit velocity in 2019 at Triple-A was 92 MPH, but struggled with a high ground ball rate. There’s never been any doubt about his defense. It’s his best tool with a 70 future fielding grade an 60 throw/arm grade. In only 198.1 innings at the hot corner in the majors, Hayes racked up +4 DRS and .5 range runs above average. His UZR/150 was an excellent 8.9 mark, which would have tied him with Anthony Rendon for 5th place had he played enough to qualify. He’s also a good base runner. His sprint speed of 28 feet/second was in the top 79th percentile

Even if he doesn’t reach that height again in terms of offense, he’ll still be a very productive bat. Baseball Reference projects him to hit .288/.364/.502 with 10 home runs but in only 248 plate appearances. If a full season is played, that would be an extremely productive hitter given his fielding ability and base running, and very similar to Matt Chapman’s 2018, another one of the best third base defenders the game has seen. The Pirates should capitalize now and give an effort to sign Hayes to an extension.

If the Pirates want to capitalize on a player whose value is lower, Bryan Reynods should be another player they look into an extension with. Reynolds had an outstanding rookie campaign where he hit .314/.377/.503 with 16 home runs and 37 doubles in 546 plate appearances. His 131 wRC+ and .880 OPS ranked 5th among rookies with at least 300 plate appearances in 2019.

Last season, however, Reynolds hit just .189/.275/.357 with a 72 wRC+, albeit,  in only 208 plate appearances. A big issue Reynolds ran into was a low batting average on balls in play, sitting at just .231 indicating he got pretty unlucky. Though he had a very high BAbip in 2019, sitting at .387, this is nothing abnormal for the switch hitter. The lowest mark Reynolds had in the minors across a fair amount of plate appearances was .362 in 2018 and even then, he had a 120 wRC+. Still, his 2020 season stats are just barely over 200 plate appearances which can lead to a lot of misleading numbers.

Reynolds did see a huge step forward defensively. In 2019, Reynolds was an average to below average defender. In the grass, he had +5 DRS, but -3.5 UZR, 0 range runs above average and only 2 outs above average. This past season, he had +7 DRS in only 435 innings while posting a 1.7 UZR and 0.5 range runs above average. He also displayed a good outfield arm going from -3.5 outfield arm runs above average to 1.4 runs.

Next. Pirates Claim A Pitcher Off Waivers. dark

Players like Reynolds and Hayes are going to be part of the Pirate core when they’re back in it. However, guys like Musgrove and Bell might not be based on what’s left on their contract. But locking down Hayes and Reynolds through their arbitration years and possibly beyond that would really benefit the Pirates.

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