By Jim Lane
CURVE, Pa. – Son of a major leaguer. First-round draft pick. High school state champion. USA National Junior Team member. Rawlings Minor League Gold Glove winner.
Curve third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes has quite a resume. And, he’s only 21 years old.
“The future obviously is bright for him,” Pirates infield coordinator Gary Green said recently at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
“The kid does a lot of good things, a lot of which are hard to teach,” Green noted. “He’s got a feel for the game. He sees things a lot of other players don’t see.
“This kid has a chance to be a real good player.”
At 21, Hayes is one of the youngest players on the Curve roster, and even he’s a bit surprised how quickly he’s advanced to Double-A.
“It’s unbelievable where I’ve come from since high school … like night and day,” he said.
Hayes was selected in the supplemental first round (32nd overall) by the Pirates in the 2015 draft out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball, Texas.
As a senior, Hayes led his team to the state championship by hitting .436 with 16 doubles, one triple, three home runs, 27 RBIs and 12 stolen bases. He also hit the game-winning single in the state title game.
Hayes committed to the University of Tennessee, but bypassed college when the Pirates drafted him.
“I new I wanted to be a pro player,” he said. “My dad played in the big leagues and my older brother, Tyree, pitched in the Rays’ minor league system for six years.”
Hayes’ career began with the GCL Pirates in 2015 where he led the Gulf Coast League in on-base percentage while hitting .333 in 44 games – second highest in the rookie league. He was promoted to short-season West Virginia in August and played in five playoff games for the Black Bears during their New York-Penn League championship run.
He played in 65 games for low-A West Virginia Power in 2016 and was selected as a South Atlantic League mid-season all-star while batting .263. He jumped to advanced-A Bradenton in 2017 and batted .278 in 108 games while earning Florida State League all-star honors.
At Bradenton, Hayes led all third basemen in the minor leagues with a .974 fielding percentage and earned him Rawlings MiLB Gold Glove honors. He received that trophy recently prior to a Curve game.
“That was awesome,” Hayes said of the award. “To be one out of all the minor league third basemen was great.”
Ke’Bryan’s dad, Charlie, was a major leaguer for 14 years, playing with the Pirates, Rockies and Yankees.
“I was only four when he retired,” Ke’Bryan said, “and I really don’t remember anything about him playing. However, he coached me from when I was 7 to high school and put me in situations which would help me down the road.
“He’s a coach in the Phillies’ minor leagues now and I talk to him a lot,” Hayes continued. “We do a lot of baseball stuff in the off-season.”
Young Hayes played in a few Grapefruit League games with the Pirates this past spring training and he hopes to get an invitation to big-league camp in 2019.
“I’d love to go there next year and experience that,” he said.
For now, though, he’s concentrating on helping the Curve try for another Eastern League title.
“I think we’re a dangerous team and have one of the best pitching staffs in the league,” Hayes said. “As long as we hit, I think we can win.”