In a challenging season for the Pirates, the absence of their franchise third baseman has left a noticeable void since July 7. However, Ke’Bryan Hayes is starting his rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday, a step in the right direction for an impactful return.
The 26-year-old is highly touted as one of the best third basemen in the Majors, and even though he’s been out for nearly 20 days, Hayes is still tied for second (10) in the league in outs above-average and tied for third in defensive runs prevented (7) while being tied for third for highest success rate added (4%).
That same season, after winning three gold gloves in the Minors, Hayes lived up to the expectations set for him, at least defensively. In a year where he was edged out in the Gold Glove race by Nolan Arenado, Hayes topped fielders at all positions with 24 defensive runs saved and had an edge in Statcast’s outs above average rating with 18.
Pirates Struggling Without Franchise Player
Since Hayes was placed on the 10-day injured list due to low back inflammation on July 7, his absence has been acutely felt by the team. The Pirates have gone 5-and-10 and currently rank sixth in errors committed and are 25th in fielding percentage out of 30 teams. Pittsburgh sits in last place in the National League Central.
The positive for Pittsburgh is that this could be the last season for years to come where the city finds itself at the bottom of the league.
Securing Hayes and Bryan Reynolds to eight-year deals was just the beginning, and with the front office proving that they’re willing to invest in the future of the organization, shortstop Oneil Cruz, who’s been sidelined a majority of this season with a broken left ankle after an awkward slide at home in early April, is due for a contract extension after signing for the league minimum ahead of the 2023 season.
Paired with veteran MLBbro Andrew McCutchen, who is eyeing another contract after signing a one-year deal in January 2023, and a young slew of talent, the Pirates were off to the races.
On June 15, Pittsburgh was 34-33 and held a half-game lead in the division, an indication that with a fully healthy roster, the team could pose problems for the race to the postseason for the first time since 2015. Possibly even get a playoff win for the first time since 2013.
Hayes went on the injured list during the last week of June with low back inflammation.
On July 6, Pittsburgh activated him from the 10-day injured list and the next day, the team put him back on IL.
Though the Pirates hate to see him miss time due to injury, Hayes can pick up where he left off when he makes his debut during the second half of the season.
We all know how much of a competitor Hayes is, but when the injury bug strikes, sometimes it’s best to take a seat and rest.
“It had been bothering him, and he had been stiff and it just hadn’t gotten better,” manager Derek Shelton said in an mlb.com article a few weeks ago. “It got to the point where we had to give it a little bit of a rest. He did some hitting yesterday and it just didn’t respond to it. We decided this morning it was the best case.”
This season Hayes has appeared in 76 games and is hitting .252 with five home runs, 32 RBI and nine stolen bases.
Hayes Was Roping In June
During the month of June, Hayes was seeing the ball well at the plate. He hit .337 and had a .518 slugging percentage.
On June 9 he had his best offensive performance of the season. He went five-for-five with four RBI and three runs scored, as well as a stolen base.
This season, Hayes has shown that he can become an elite hitter and do it on a consistent basis. While he’s on the IL, he’s still one of the top hitters on his team.
Our MLBbro has dealt with a similar injury last year which forced him to miss some time and the Pirates want to make sure they are treating this injury the right way this time.
Pirates director of sports medicine, Todd Tomczyk spoke on Hayes’ injury when the team first put him on the IL back in June.
“He was grinding through some things in Miami over the weekend,” Tomczyk said in an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “He was playing through some discomfort, he was playing through the inflammation. So we just met as a physician group, met as a medical team and wanted to do what’s best for Key both short and long term.”