Anthony Scherer is the author of this piece.
In 2018 the Pirates didn’t rely heavily on their minor leaguers to help them have a winning a season, but if they want to compete and get better in 2019 there is one that should be up soon.
Ke’Bryan Hayes should be the first of many Pirates call ups this season. Hayes is coming off a really solid season in Double-A, he hit .293, had 7 home runs and 47 RBIs, and also stole 12 bases. Plenty of scouts also think that that he has the best glove in the minors at the hot corner and could project into a Gold Glove player at third base. He was ranked as the fourth-best third base prospect according MLB Pipeline and was No. 36 overall in their top 100 rankings.
Hayes would bring something the Pirates need and that’s better defense play at the hot corner. Last year Colin Moran played the most games at third base with 116, and he finished first on the team in errors (10) and had the lowest fielding percentage of any regular .962, adding a -10 defensive runs saved mark at the hot corner.
Hayes’ ability to hit keeps improving as well, and the power is continuing to develop. His 7 home runs were the most he hit in the minors. Finally, in 2018 he set career highs in extra base hits and in walk rate. This is one prospect the Pirates should push a little faster than others they have in the past to help the big club this season.
Pushing Hayes up to the big-league roster wouldn’t hurt Moran or Jung Ho Kang. Moran isn’t the Pirates long-term third baseman; he’s a stop gap until Hayes takes over. Once he does Moran can become what David Freese was for them, which is someone who can be a bench bat and play third or first base.
The Pirates are team that likes to have their players be able to play multiple positions, so if they want Moran to have a place on this roster moving forward they could work with him in Spring Training and throughout the season on some outfield work, and play him a few games in right field.
As for Kang, he’s signed for just one season and if Hayes does come up and takes over third base they could shift him over second base or possibly, if the range is there, to shortstop again.
Making those moves would just make the Pirates a better team and show that they’re serious about competing this season and show that all of those minor leaguers they traded away to compete now was worth it.