Third Base - Ke'Bryan Hayes
Ke'Bryan Hayes will attempt to re-take his throne as the best defensive third baseman in all of baseball once he returns to the field. Hayes has easily surpassed Nolan Arenado for that title this year, and Arenado isn't even his biggest competitor for the Gold Glove this season. Either way, it will be fun to see Hayes back at the hot corner in the second half of this year.
Hayes' hitting numbers aren't all that too dissimilar to his typical output. He’s batted .254/.290/.397 with a .297 wOBA, and 84 wRC+. Hayes is striking out at a career-best 19.8% rate, but his walk rate is strangely low at just 5%. He walked at an above-average rate in 2021-2022, at 8.3%, so this is an uncharacteristically low number for him. However, he has hit for more power, as he's just two long balls shy from matching his 2022 home run total.
However, unlike in previous seasons, the underlying numbers are starting to point in the right direction. Hayes had an expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) hovering right around .300 in '21-'22. Now, he's at .315. That might not seem like a large difference, but that's the difference between the league average and about 10% below the league average. Hayes also seemed to find his groove in June prior to his injury, slashing .3367/.337/.518 with a 130 wRC+. Hayes demolished the baseball with a 91.1 MPH exit velo, and a 10.7-degree launch angle, a massive improvement from 5.2 degrees last year.
Of course, you can't talk about Hayes without talking about his defense. Hayes has +10 defensive runs saved, which is just three runs short of Colorado Rockies' third baseman Ryan McMahon for the lead at his position. He also has +9 outs above average, again just one short of McMahon for first place. Still, Hayes has been nothing short of astounding with his glove work at third base.