BRADENTON, Fla. -- Ke’Bryan Hayes did not make the club, which was no surprise. However, the touted third base prospect did make a good impression in his first major-league spring training.
Hayes was among eight players in the Pirates’ latest round of cuts Monday before they traveled to Port Charlotte, Fla., to play the Rays in an exhibition game.
Infielder Kevin Kramer was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis. Hayes was reassigned to minor-league camp along with left-hander Brandon Waddell, reliever Geoff Hartlieb, catchers Christian Kelley and Arden Pabst, first baseman Will Craig and outfielder Bryan Reynolds.
Hayes, 22, went 9-for-26 (.346) with four doubles, one triple and two home runs in Grapefruit League play. He also lived up to his sparking defensive reputation after winning minor-league Gold Gloves each of the last two seasons at Double-A Altoona and high-A Bradenton.
Most certainly, Hayes will begin the season at Indianapolis. That will put him one step away from the major leagues.
“Being able to be on the field with a bunch of major-leaguers every day made me feel like I belong here, and I can do it,” Hayes said. “I feel like I can definitely play up here, but I also know it’s probably better for me to go to Triple-A to get that seasoning in. I’m going to face pitchers who are going to throw a lot of different things at me and they will be good experience.”
Despite his spring success, Hayes feels he still has many aspects of his game that need improvement -- including baserunning, driving the ball more and being more consistent on the routine fielding plays.
“He wants to be a great baseball player,” Neal Huntington said. “He understands the speed of the game will be better at Triple-A and even better at the major-league level. He is going to have to become accustomed to it. It says a lot about Ke’ and it’s a great sign that he wants to get better and knows the areas he needs to work on.”
Kramer will be the primary second baseman at Indianapolis but will also see some action at third base and shortstop. Huntington also said Kramer may be tried in left field and right field.
Huntington compared Kramer to such players as Jordy Mercer, Neil Walker, Josh Harrison and Adam Frazier. All played multiple positions before settling in as starters with the Pirates.
Kramer was 6-for-29 (.207) with a double and a home run this spring.
“We’re not looking at him as a utility player,’ Huntington said. “We’re looking at this as being a pathway for him to get to the major leagues. We’re going to need him to help us at the major-league level this season and the more positions he plays, the more opportunities there will be for him.”
Waddell allowed two runs in 5 1/3 innings and Hartlieb gave up four runs in 8 2/3 innings.
Kelly was 1-for-14 (.071) with a double, Pabst went 3-for-13 (.231) with a double, Craig was 7-for-24 (.291) with two doubles and Reynolds went 6-for-23 (.261) with a double.
It is just a matter of time before Hayes is the Pirates’ starting third baseman. It could be as early as midseason this year. It should be no later than 2020.
Kramer had a poor showing in the major leagues last year and did not light it up during exhibition play. However, he still has the look of a future major-leaguer to me. Whether it’s as a regular or a bench guy remains to be seen.
Hartlieb was hurt by the longball as he gave up three home runs. However, he showed a lot of poise for someone who has yet to pitch above Double-A and it also helps that his fastball can reach 99 mph. He is a player to keep an eye on.
Craig’s stock continues to rise following a strong season in Double-A. He could provide serious competition for Josh Bell’s starting job next spring.
Reynolds isn’t the type of player who wows anyone but he’s solid in all areas. However, I see him more as a fourth outfielder than an everyday guy.
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