This week the Baltimore Orioles promoted outfield prospect Austin Hays to the major league roster. He made his MLB debut yesterday with one at-bat against the New York Yankees. He’s been devastatingly effective against minor league pitching over the last year and a half. Let’s take a look.
Hays played college ball at Jacksonville University. He had a particularly excellent season in 2016, hitting .350/.406/.655 with 16 homers and 15 steals, earning a spot in the third round of the ‘16 draft.
He continued mashing in his pro debut last summer, tearing up the New York-Penn League with a .336/.386/.514 slash line for Aberdeen. Hays ranked 15th on the pre-season Baltimore Orioles Top 20 prospects list for 2017 with this comment:
15) Austin Hays, OF, Grade C+: Age 21, third round pick in 2016 from Jacksonville University; hit .336/.386/.514 with four homers, 11 walks, 32 strikeouts in 140 at-bats in NY-P; right field tools with 60 arm, 55 power, average speed but good defensive ability thanks to instincts and work ethic; handled NY-P without much trouble; deserves more attention than he’s received but we need to see how his approach holds up. ETA late 2019.
His approach held up just fine in 2017: he hit .328/.364/.592 in High-A then .330/.367/.594 after moving up to Double-A. Overall he mashed minor league pitching at a combined .329/.365/.593 clip with 32 homers, 25 walks, and 89 strikeouts in 523 at-bats.
Listed at 6-1, 195, Hays is a right-handed hitter and thrower born July 5th, 1995. He has solid to slightly above-average tools across the board: 55 to 60 raw power, 55 speed, 60 arm. His bat speed is above-average to excellent and he has substantial pull power, but he is also savvy enough to hit the ball the opposite way when necessary.
Hays has an aggressive approach and doesn’t draw a lot of walks, but he does not strike out excessively and is adept at making hard contact. Minor league pitchers have, so far, been unable to take advantage of his aggressiveness.
With the glove, Hays features a plus arm and decent outfield range. He’s split his professional time between center and right field. The corner is probably his best option long-term as he may lose some speed with age.
Arriving in the majors 15 months after being drafted, Hays has exceeded expectations and his projected timetable. He probably needs a year of Triple-A before being thrown into the major league fire full-time, but even so the Orioles found a bargain in the third round: a potential regular outfielder with an impact bat.