Pirates’ Spring Position Battles: Thirdbase

Well, this is an easy one.  The only “battle” here will be the possibility of a contract extension.  There’s almost nothing to talk about.  The most likely backups are Todd Frazier and Phillip Evans, whom I’ve already discussed, and Erik Gonzalez, who’s likely to be on the team just because.

Ke’Bryan Hayes:  Quite possibly the new “Face of the Pirates,” you probably know the story.  Hayes is a likely Gold Glove candidate going forward.  He also runs surprisingly well, with sprint speed that puts him right at the top fifth according to Statcast.  That’s funny, because it’s very different from the scouting reports when he was drafted.  For some reason, the Pirates haven’t had him run much since he stole 27 bases in the Florida State League, but maybe that’ll change.  The big issue was always whether he’d hit for power, but in the plague season he slugged .682 after his belated callup.  His average exit velocity of 92.8 mph was well above average.  In fact, it was better than Bryce Harper, Ronald Acuna, Freddie Freeman or Juan Soto.

Odds of anybody watching a Pirate game this season if Hayes isn’t there: <1%

Hunter Owen:  A last-second NRI, Owen was a late-round draftee in 2016 as a college senior and is now 27.  He was the best hitter in the Eastern League during the first half of 2019, then struggled after a promotion to AAA.  He pretty much sells out for power, striking out a lot and seldom walking.  Originally an outfielder, Owen in his first full season moved to third, where he’s been passable.  The organization experimented briefly with him behind the plate in 2018.  When he ended up on the same team with Hayes, he played outfield and first.

Odds of playing in Pgh. this season:  <10%