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The Pirates are in need of an upgrade at third base. Colin Moran has had two seasons to prove he’s the answer at the hot corner but the results are less than encouraging. It might be time for top prospect Ke’Bryan Hayes to be ushered in as the heir to third base for the foreseeable future.
In 2018, Moran posted a 0.7 WAR with average metrics across the board, offensively. He took a step back in 2019, posting a sub-par .315 wOBA and a much too high 23.3% K-rate. His chase rate jumped almost 10% last season, a clear indication that he was pressing at the plate.
Defensively he regressed as well. In 2018, his defensive runs saved (DRS) was a -8. Last year it dropped even further to a -13. His overall ultimate zone rating (UZR) is a dismal -15.8.
That, coupled with the fact that Moran isn’t due to hit free agency until the 2024 season (2020 is his arbitration year), perhaps he’d be better suited in more of a utility role than a starting infielder. Moran can fill in at any infield position (save for catcher) as well as a spot start in left field.
It might be time to insert top prospect and 2015 first round pick, Ke’Bryan Hayes. The Pirates are in rebuild mode so there is no pressure on Hayes to perform immediately. He’ll turn 23 prior to the start of the 2020 season and has spent the last four years progressing through the Pirates minor league system.
There is no doubt in any prospect analysts mind that Hayes is already looking like an elite defender. His defensive ratings for fielding put him as high as a 70 (in the 20-80 rating system) with a 60-grade arm. He’s quick both in the field and on the bases.
Hayes projects to be a decent hitter but there is uncertainty about his power. If that’s able to be developed, the Pirates will have themselves a true five-tool player.
Last year, Hayes accumulated 480 plate appearances for AAA Indianapolis Indians and hit .265 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs. Hayes has a good, yet still developing, eye that has kept his K-rate below 20% throughout his minor league career.
The top available third base free agents (Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, and Mike Moustakas) will likely demand a salary that wouldn’t make sense for the Pirates at this stage. Some older veterans (Asdrubal Cabrera, Todd Frazier, or Eric Sogard) might be feasible but ultimately if the team isn’t expected to compete, wouldn’t it make sense to see what the Pirates have in their younger players?
What do you think?