First Pitch: Ke’Bryan Hayes Deserves Rookie of the Year, But That’s Not Important

I thought about making today’s article about Ke’Bryan Hayes and the case for him being Rookie of the Year.

Quite honestly, that’s a layup topic in Pittsburgh. Hayes ranks second among NL rookies with a 1.7 WAR (Dodgers pitcher Tony Gonsolin is first at 1.8), and ranks at or near the top in every ratio category among qualified rookies. That includes being first in average, OBP, and slugging, as well as second in isolated power.

The Rookie of the Year award is fun, but it ultimately means nothing for future projections.

Pete Alonso won the award last year easily over Fernando Tatis Jr., but I think any reasonable GM would take Tatis Jr. over Alonso when building their future team.

The 2020 race reminds me of the race in 2009, when Andrew McCutchen was number one in WAR, but lost to Chris Coghlan, who ranked fifth in WAR, but who had better ratio numbers than McCutchen. In this case, Hayes leads in ratio stats and WAR, which will make for an interesting convergence between analytical thinkers, and the people who still use batting average to decide a player’s value.

That 2009 race is another example of how the Rookie of the Year award isn’t important to future projections. No one would go back and take Coghlan over McCutchen for the long-term, and I’m not even sure anyone would have made that choice at the time.

The future is all that matters for the Pirates. Ke’Bryan Hayes winning the 2020 Rookie of the Year award would be a bright spot in the dark cavern that has been the 2020 Pirates’ season. But that doesn’t promise future success.

Looking back at that 2019 race, there are two players who stand out to me, lost behind the Alonso/Tatis field.

The first is Bryan Reynolds, who had a 3.2 WAR, tied for fourth in the NL. The second is Kevin Newman, who had a 2.4 WAR, tied for seventh among NL rookies.

Reynolds and Newman didn’t come close to that production in their follow-up seasons. Reynolds was replacement level and Newman was below replacement level. I’m not sure if that means much during this season. Pete Alonso had an 0.4 WAR this year, and while I said I’d take Tatis Jr. over him, I’m not going to say his Rookie of the Year season was a total fluke, and the pandemic shortened and altered 2020 season was an indicator of his future potential. I also won’t make the same arguments for Reynolds and Newman.

The Rookie of the Year races the last two years provides some hope for the future of the Pirates.

We’ve been projecting Hayes to have impact potential for some time. We’ve projected Reynolds and Newman to be closer to average starters in the majors, which isn’t as exciting, but is something that would upgrade the Pirates.

That’s three position players who have already shown MLB potential. The Pirates have other guys on their team who have shown potential to be average starters or better, such as Josh Bell and Adam Frazier in previous years, and Jacob Stallings during the 2020 season. The difference is that Hayes, Reynolds, and Newman are projected to be around for much longer than those three players.

This is a good start for the Pirates. I’m not sure where it leads. I’m not sure when it might lead to a winning team. But the Pirates have some young talent to build upon.

**Today’s discussion question: What team are you pulling for in the MLB playoffs? Rays all the way for me.

**We’re going to post a live discussion thread this afternoon for the MLB playoffs. If it goes well, we will do this daily for the entire playoffs.

**We had nine articles on the site yesterday. Check them out in the Daily Links below. The most important one, as far as the site’s future, was First Pitch, which details some of the challenges we’re facing moving forward. We could use your support by purchasing something from the PBN Shop. A limited edition Ke’Bryan Hayes 2020 Prospect Guide seems appropriate today.

**I’ve got my next edition of “Baseball Theory” going up at Pirates Prospects today at 10 AM. These articles are much different than anything I’ve written in the past, aiming to invoke some new thought on different areas of the game. The latest feature looks at my lifetime of migraine experience, and applies it to MLB injuries.

The 2020 Prospect Guide returns to print for our tenth  we are releasing three variant covers, featuring Mitch Keller and Ke’Bryan Hayes. Visit our shop page to order these extremely limited items!


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