#40 Chris "Disco" Hayes
Signed: Non-Drafted Free Agent March 2, 2006
College: Northwestern University
If Rowdy Hardy has the best name in all of professional sports then Chris "Disco" Hayes has one of the top nicknames. Why is his nickname "Disco" you ask? Because he survives with pitch speeds in the 60's and 70's. Disco's fastball makes Hardy look like the next Randy Johnson. But all kidding aside Hayes can get outs, so well in fact that through nearly forty innings in Springdale this past season he maintained an era under 1.00 and a k:bb rate of nearly 3:1.
I have had the pleasure of seeing Hayes pitch on (I think) four separate occasions. I say pleasure because there are not that many opportunities for a baseball fan to watch professional hitters whiff on 78 mph fastballs and 67 mph curve balls. Some would rather see a flame thrower blow balls past hitters, but I can tell you now that I thoroughly enjoy watching Hayes baffle hitters into strikeouts or what is most common a groundout to the pitcher. Last season Hayes produced a groundball rate of 55% and for his career has a rate of 57%. You see when a pitcher causes groundball rates of these percentages he is going to have an incredibly easy time getting outs and as long as the defense behind him isn't Alberto Callaspo he is going to be an extremely effective pitcher. Wait... Kansas City's second baseman is Alberto Callaspo. Well he should still be effective nonetheless.
Chris Hayes is able to produce such high groundball rates because, as you can see in the picture, he is a submarine style pitcher. Not sidearm, but full fledged submarine. With this arm angle hitters not only are forced to find the ball in a place that they are not used to finding it, but also Hayes is able to produce a wicked spinning effect that causes the ball to find the turf as soon as possible after the impact with the bat. I went to a game in Springdale this past season and three consecutive batters pounded the ball into the ground in front of homeplate so hard that I was sure they would have to replace the divots with sod.
Hayes numbers in Omaha are somewhat deceiving and he has been hurt by a fairly high opponent's babip. Also, I am going to guess that the infield defense was pretty sketchy this past season for the O-Royals. Surely this is a good guess considering they finished in last place in their division. I also think that Hayes wasn't used in his best role in Omaha and often times they used him in long relief, when judging by his numbers he is much more effective in one or two inning appearances.
Hayes reminds me a lot of Chad Bradford and I am positive that I am not alone in this feeling. However, Bradford is an extremely shy guy and hates to even see himself on camera. Hayes on the other hand seems to be a little bit different. While he is extremely humble like Bradford he also connects with fans much more than the average ball players. Hayes has his own blog (discohayes.mlblogs.com) which is probably much better writing than my own blog considering he went to one of the top journalism schools in the country. Hayes also has done several question and answers with milb.com which you can also find online if you are interested.
I believe that Hayes should have been given a Spetember call-up and added to the 40-man roster but with an era of nearly 4.60 in Omaha I can see why he wasn't. Although like I just stated I don't think his era was a fair assessment of his tenure with the O-Royals. I really hope that Hayes is not yet eligible for the Rule V draft (I don't think he is), because it would really be a shame to lose him when he could be a key to strengthening an awful 2009 bullpen. If the Royals are wise Hayes will at least be invited to big league spring training and given a shot at winning a job in the pen to start 2010. If not hopefully Hayes can dominate the Pacific Coast League and then become a fan favorite in Kansas City.