TDG 2023 PLAYERS TO AVOID: THIRD BASE
This is a companion piece to our 2023 Top 50 Dynasty League Third Base series. The opinions below are our own and do not reflect the TDG consensus.
KE’BRYAN KOBE HAYES, PITTSBURGH PIRATES (AGE: 26, RANK: 12)
Coming out of the gate HOT!
This is all about 24 games, played in September 2021, that has brought us to today. Here’s the stat line: 17/5/11/1 with seven doubles and an eye-popping slash line of .376/.442/.682, good for an 11.7 Offensive WAR. What a way to begin a career, no?
Let’s take a look at another guy who made his big-league debut at the end of a rookie year. In 40 games, he slashed .220/.281/.390 going 20/5/16/4. Not a great start to a career, that’s for sure. What happened to that guy? Oh yeah, he was and is Mike Trout. So, beginnings don’t really matter, especially over 24 or 40 games, do they?
Where did he come from?
Drafted out of Concordia Lutheran High School in Texas, Hayes was the first-round selection of the Pirates, 32 overall, and he spent five years moving up through the system before making his MLB debut. Hayes was ranked 30th overall as a prospect before the 2020 season (per FanGraphs) and made it up to 15th before the 2021 season. Mlb.com had Hayes as the 41st overall prospect in 2020, and the 9th overall prospect in 2021. Son of former big leaguer Charlie Hayes, and an elite defender at third base, Ke’Bryan looked to be a future star.
There was always something a bit off on the hype he received relative to his minor league production. Hayes never had more than ten home runs in any minor league season, and never had an ISO (slugging – average) above .151, not before the .306 ISO of his 24-game debut.
Hayes signed an eight-year, $70 million extension in April 2022, so the Pirates are betting on him being at least an average hitter to go along with the elite defense. Sadly, he’s posted wRC+ of 87 and 88 (below the 100-league average) the past two seasons, and nothing stands out to me that he will be much more than a league-average hitter at best.
Is there a Bright Side? (Maybe…Not)
Hayes’ baseball savant page is not the prettiest; but he still does a couple things well. One, Hayes hits the ball hard, but too often it is into the ground, as he has been above the league average in groundballs every season. He also is putting the barrel on the ball less than the league average. After never striking out more than 19% in the minors, Hayes has been at 22% in the majors. His walk rate of about 11% in the minors compared to 8% in the majors shows he may have a little room to improve and get that batting average to an acceptable level.
If he can achieve his career minor league (1755 AB) slash line of .279/.353/.754, then we might be able to utilize him on our rosters. But, if Hayes doesn’t hit for average, doesn’t hit for power, doesn’t walk much, is in a terrible lineup for counting stats, there isn’t much to like. He does steal bases, so there is some value there, however, if you believe that stolen base numbers will be up in 2023 due to the new rule changes, then Hayes, even if he steals 30, may not be as valuable if a lot of guys are stealing 30.
What to do in 2023?
In early NFBC drafts, Hayes is being drafted 158th overall as the 12th third baseman off the board; right after Jose Miranda and right in front of Matt Chapman. Personally, I would much rather have the upside of Miranda or the power of Chapman. Third basemen being taken later that I would rather have include: Josh Jung, Ryan McMahon, Alec Bohm, Josh Rojas, and a few others. As it is, I would be trading Hayes off my rosters (if I hadn’t already done so last off-season) and not drafting him in any startups or annual leagues. He may still have enough name value to net a good player or pick in return, but one more season of below average production will slam the door on getting anything worthwhile next off-season. (Phil Barrington)
D.J. Lemahieu – New York Yankees (Age: 34, Rank: 29)
Lemahieu was a Swiss Army knife for the Yankees in 2022 playing 35 or more games at 1B, 2B, and 3B. He generally led off for the Bronx Bombers setting the table for the likes of Judge and Stanton. He continues to have solid plate skills turning in a 12.4% BB Rate, 89.1% Zone Contact Rate, and a 24.4% Chase Rate. What concerns me about Lemahieu is that he will turn 35 midway through the 2023 season. His exit velocities are steadily declining (91.9 mph (‘19), 91.3 mph (‘20), 90.6 mph (‘21), and 89.2 mph (‘22)) and his sprint speed is now well below average (26.4 ft/sec, 28th percentile).
His 2022 line of .261-74-12-46-4 ranked as the 24th best third basemen on the Razzball Player Rater for 12-team standard roto-leagues. This is not the type of production that you expect out of your starting third baseman, and you can probably do better for your corner infield slot as well. The Yankees have a number of young, athletic infield prospects very close to cracking the lineup (Peraza, Cabrera, Volpe etc.). This may take playing time away from Lemahieu or even force the Yankees to trade the veteran to make room. He has 4 years and 60 million remaining on his current contract, but his time in pinstripes may be running short. Lemahieu’s position versatility and plate discipline make for a solid fantasy bench player; look elsewhere for your starting 3B. (Greg Hoogkamp)