The Pirates have announced that Ke’Bryan Hayes is their 2018 Minor League Player of the Year, and JT Brubaker is their 2018 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
Hayes wins on the player side after hitting for an .819 OPS in Altoona this year. He was hitting for average and getting on base at a good rate last year in Bradenton, and saw an increase in his power this year. That power increase led to seven homers and a .151 ISO. He also increased his walk rate from 8.5% to 11.2%, and showed his usual strong defense at third base.
Brubaker posted a combined 2.81 ERA in 154 innings between Altoona and Indianapolis, with a 7.7 K/9 and a 2.6 BB/9. He had been over a 3.0 BB/9 in each of the last two seasons, showing improvements this year. The bulk of his season came in Indianapolis, where he put up a 3.10 ERA in 119 innings. He was second in the minor league system in strikeouts, falling only behind Mitch Keller, and first in ERA among pitchers with 100+ innings.
Hayes should make the jump to Indianapolis next year, and could position himself for the majors in the second half with another good season. He has emerged as the third baseman of the future, and should put pressure on Colin Moran to improve over his 2018 results.
Brubaker hasn’t been called to the majors, but is Rule 5 eligible this year for the first time. It would be difficult to imagine the Pirates recognizing him as their best minor league pitcher this year, and then leaving him unprotected in the draft, especially since he has shown promise in the second half with a new cutter. Assuming he remains in the system, he should be starting pitching depth next year, or a bullpen/long relief option.