By MARK SIMON
This was the first play of Ke’Bryan Hayes’ major league career and it went about how you would have expected it to go if you had been following Hayes through the minor leagues.
“He’s one of a few players we have evaluated as plus-plus future defenders,” said Fangraphs’ lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen in April. “He has all those great third-base components — first-step quickness, good footwork, very flexible, good hands, and a strong arm. The thing that has stood out for me in my looks is the composure. Under the constraint of 4.5 seconds of when the ball is hit to when the runner reaches first base, he keeps himself composed when he’s making a tough play. He’s made strong accurate throws from all types of platforms.”
Hayes has lived up to his reputation as possibly the best defense-oriented prospect in the minor leagues. He’s saved 4 runs in 17 games. He’s hit too – batting .310 with 3 home runs. He’s played third base but he’s looked good playing essentially the shortstop role in defensive shifts (“people, myself included have wondered what he’d look like as a shortstop,” said Longenhagen.)
On this play you’ll hear another impressed person, ex-pitcher Chris Welsh, who with 28 years of broadcasting experience has seen a lot of good infielders in his time.
Welsh is not the only broadcaster Hayes has impressed.
Hayes isn’t shy out there. He’s aggressive to the baseball, as evidenced by how he charged this Whit Merrifield bunt.
When Hayes appeared on the Sports Info Solutions Baseball Podcast last year, he talked about a drill he did as a Little Leaguer in which the first baseman wore a Superman ‘S’ logo on a t-shirt and it was the goal of the fielders not to jump through the air like a Superman (note that the plays we’ve shown you, Hayes has stayed on his feet), but to throw across the diamond right to the ‘S.’
This play makes it look like Hayes did pretty well at that drill.
Hayes takes after his father, former third baseman Charlie Hayes, who was a slick fielding third baseman as well. One of our favorite things about talking to Ke’Bryan last year came after the interview when we showed him this video of his father making a nice catch to close out a no-hitter. Ke’Bryan had not seen it before.
We’re pretty confident that Ke’Bryan would have snagged that one too.