By Ethan Sands
The MLB Gold Glove nominations were announced on Thursday.
Ke’Bryan Hayes would become the first Pirates third baseman to receive a Gold Glove if his name is called on Nov. 1 during ESPN’s Baseball Tonight before the start of Game 4 of the World Series.
In just his third professional season, the Pirates’ third baseman joins nine-time Gold Glove winner Nolan Arenado and Colorado’s Ryan McMahon as the final candidates for the best third baseman in the NL.
If instead Arenado wins his 10th Gold Glove, he’d tie Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt for the second-highest total at the hot corner, behind only Hall of Famer Brooks Robinson’s 16.
The 25-year-old Hayes led all players in Defensive Runs Saved (24) and all third basemen in Outs Above Average (18). Arenado was second in OAA (15).
This wouldn’t be the first Gold Glove of Hayes’ professional career, as he won three in the Minors since being drafted with the 32nd overall pick in 2015. But in his first full season with Pittsburgh in 2021, he didn’t meet the Rawlings qualification of playing in 713 innings by the Pirates’ 142nd game. His season was shortened due to being placed on the 60-day injured list on May 9, 2021, after also being put on the 10-day injured list on April 4.
He wouldn’t let that be the case in 2022.
“He expects to play every single day,” director of sports medicine Todd Tomczyk told MLB.com. “I know Ke’ had a goal coming in that he wanted to play every single day. That’s not even counting practice workload. He gets after it most days, and that’s the balance.”
Hayes played in 133 games and 1,102 2/3 innings at third base, making just 12 errors over 428 total chances for a .972 fielding percentage. But he played through back pain for the majority of the season. He was placed on the 10-day injured list on Aug. 16 (retroactive to Aug. 13) with a mid-muscle back strain, but his determination and goal to reach the qualifications kept him off the injured list for the rest of the season.
“For the most part, I’ve just been trying to find ways to really just get on the field, stay on the field,” Hayes said.
Hayes made his presence felt whenever he was on the field, leading Pittsburgh in both bWAR (4.2) and fWAR (3.0) while also being the first Pirate since Starling Marte in 2019 to record 20 stolen bases in a season.
His first Major League Gold Glove would be the cherry on top of a sensational season that saw Hayes become the highest-paid player in Pirates franchise history. He inked an eight-year deal worth a guaranteed $70 million with a club option for a ninth on April 12.