Who is Austin Hays?

Entering the 2017 minor league season, Austin Hays was not a name many people outside the Orioles fandom or baseball purists would have known about. Who can blame them seeing as he was unranked in every major prospect list and was only the 8th ranked Orioles prospect in a system lambasted for its lack of depth and prospects. He is currently ranked as the 88th best prospect in the Majors and the Orioles 2nd ranked prospect (Hays is ranked as the #1 Orioles prospect by Baseball America). He was the Orioles minor league player of the year and a finalist for the league Minor League Player of the Year overall. All this, after a little over a year, since being drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of Jacksonville University.   

Since entering his professional career, Hays has encountered little resistance putting up decent numbers especially in his first full professional season. In 128 games in 2017, Hays batted .329 with 32 HRs and 95 RBIs and a .958 OPS. 69 of his 172 hits last season were extra base hits (40%).  So how does his Minor league stats compare with Orioles rookie standout Trey Mancini and Orioles #1 prospect Chance Sisco? Let’s take a look:

Austin Hays

Trey Mancini

Chance Sisco

Games (minors)

166 483

455

Batting Average

.330 .306

.311

Home Runs

36 54

25

Runs Batted In

116 275

206

On Base Percentage

.370 .357

.390

On Base Plus Slugging .946 .829

.815

Austin Hays’ OPS in the minors thus far is outstanding especially compared to Mancini and Sisco. Hayes has also showed some power in his first full minor league belting 32 home runs last year (16 A and 16 AA).  Now Hayes has played only 2 seasons (1 full season in A+ and AA and 1 short season A-)  compared to 4 seasons of minor league ball for Mancini and Sisco but what Hays has managed to produce thus far with his short time is nothing short of impressive, continuing to hit and produce so far in his short time.

Having proven he could hit at the minor league level, Hays was rewarded with a September call up, appearing in 20 games with the Orioles. How did he do? Not that great. He hit .217 with 1 home run and 8 RBIs with the highlight being his first career home run. Do you know who else had a forgettable first call up? Mike Trout. Mike Trout’s stat line during his first call up: 40 games, .220 batting average,5 home runs and 16 RBIs. Trout and Hays minor league numbers are comparatively similar as well:

Austin Hays

Mike Trout

Games (minors)

166

290

Batting Average

.330

.341

Home Runs

36

23

Runs Batted In

116

134

On Base Percentage

.370

.426

On Base Plus Slugging

.946

.942

No, I am not saying Austin Hays will be the next Mike Trout. Trout was only 17 when he first started playing in the minors, Hays is a bit more seasoned at 20 with college experience. The point here, more or less, is to not be discouraged by his small sample size in the MLB. After Trout’s first appearance in the majors he went back down to the AAA level before being recalled and becoming one of the best players in baseball.   

Source: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images North America

Having seen Austin Hays play in both Frederick (Orioles A+ affiliate) and in Bowie (Orioles AA affiliate), I can tell you his play just sticks out. It seems like every game he is about to do something that will leave a lasting impression on you. As for where you can see Hays in 2018 remains to be seen. Hays is hurt by the fact he bats right handed and the Orioles lineup right now is predominately right handed, something the club has stated it wants to address this offseason. Hays has a great opportunity to make the Orioles roster; especially if he performs well in spring training. If he starts the season on the major league roster it would appear to be a platoon role similar to how Trey Mancini started the season last year. There’s also the possibility Hays will start down at the AAA level, which in no way should be considered a negative thing.

In the end, no matter where Hays starts the season he is on the fast track to being an everyday impact player for the Baltimore Orioles. As a matter of fact, do not be surprised to hear Austin Hayes as a finalist for AL Rookie of the Year at the end of next season.

 

(Photo Credit: JULIAN AVRAM/ICON SPORTSWIRE)

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