While his defensive prowess is undeniable, the Pittsburgh Pirates need third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes to get going at the plate
To the surprise of many, the Pittsburgh Pirates are off to a strong start this season. Entering play on Saturday at 8-6 on the season, the Pirates are off to a stronger start than anyone would have predicted in spring training.
This strong start is despite some early season struggles at multiple important positions. One of these positions is third base where Ke'Bryan Hayes is off to a slow start to begin the 2023 season. This slow start is something that can not continue. The Pirates desperately need Hayes to get going offensively.
Throughout his major league career Hayes has mostly struggled offensively. He made his MLB debut in September 2020, hitting .376/.442/.682 that month with a 194 wRC+. Outside of this month, he has been a poor hitter in the majors.
Since his first month in the majors, Hayes has hit for a .244/.309/.350 slash line with an 84 wRC+ in 1,010 plate apperances. These offensive struggles have been real for Hayes, which has diluted his defensive ability.
There is a strong argument to be made that Hayes is not just the best defensive third baseman in baseball, but the best defensive player in baseball regardless of position. But to reach his full potential and completely justify his $70 million contract extension, the Pirates need Hayes to get going offensively.
If the Pirates are going to continue to win games and surprise people this season it will have to include offensive improvement from Hayes. Without this improvement, it will only hurt the Pirate lineup and the team as a whole.
All of that said, there is still reason for hope that Hayes will right the ship. Hitting the ball hard has never been a problem for Hayes, this season included. His 44.4% hard-hit rate is almost 10% higher than league average and ranks in the 70th percentile in all of baseball, while his average exit velocity of 91.8 MPH ranks in the 79th percentile of baseball.
If Hayes continues to hit the ball this way it's hard to envision him not getting going offensively. It's a simple concept, if you hit the ball hard good things will happen. So, in theory, if Hayes continues to hit the ball hard good things will happen.
Friday night Hayes got a night off. Some times getting that night off can help a hitter reset their mind and help to get them going at the plate. Hopefully, this will be the case with Hayes. Even with his incredible defensive ability, the Pittsburgh Pirates need him to get going offensively.
This team needs the offensive help, especially with Oneil Cruz set to miss four months with a fractured ankle. A big step that can be taken to help with these offensive questions is for Hayes to get going at the plate. That, however, is up to Hayes.