Prospect Breakout: Just How Good Is The Newly Recalled Austin Hays?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

A 2016 third round pick, Austin Hays has seen a meteoric rise.  It was nearly impossible to see this coming, as the 22-year old evenly split time between High-A and Double-A this season and thrived at each step of the way.  Now comes a surprising promotion to the Majors, and the question is whether or not he’s going to get an opportunity to make an impact.  Plus, if that opportunity does come can he continue to rake?  Let’s take a look and get to know him a bit better:

Rotoprofessor Rankings:
Unranked (Preseason)

Hiss – Right-Handed

Age – 22

2017 Statistics:
High-A – .328 (86-262), 16 HR, 41 RBI, 42 R, 4 SB
Double-A – .330 (86-261), 16 HR, 54 RBI, 30 R, 1 SB

What Others Have Said:
Hays makes the ball jump off his bat with above-average bat speed and a short, handsy swing from the right side of the plate. Hays doesn’t waste a lot of motion and has shown the ability to drive the ball across the whole field. Scouts believe he’ll develop into an above-average hitter with similar power, and he’s shown plenty of over-the-fence thump across two levels in his first full season.

Thoughts:
The numbers are impressive, but there is going to be questions about his plate discipline and whether or not MLB pitching is going to be able to take advantage.  He’s combined for just a 4.4% walk rate while posting an elevated 12.1% SwStr%.  While the latter hasn’t shown up quite yet (15.1% strikeout rate), it’s easy to imagine the number rising significantly against more advanced pitching.

That’s going to impact his average, obviously, and while there clearly is power (he’s added 32 doubles and 5 triples) you have to make contact in order to tap into it.  Would it really be a surprise to see him struggle initially, especially if the strikeout rate balloons into the 25% range or higher?  It’s not to say that it will get that high, and if he can keep it in the 20% range he has the power and the ability to hit the ball hard (23.1% line drive rate) to make some noise.

Then you have to figure out exactly where the playing time will come from.  If the team hasn’t replaced Mark Trumbo or Chris Davis yet, can we really expect them to now?  It’s hard to believe.  Could Joey Rickard/Seth Smith become the odd men out?  That one is possible, and you would think that Hays wasn’t added to the 40-man roster to simply sit on the bench.

It’s a highly intriguing move from the Orioles, and one that will be fun to see how it plays out.  At the very least this move shows that Hays is a serious contender for the 2018 Orioles (especially if he thrives in this trial period).

Sources – MLB.com, MILB.com, Fangraphs

Make sure to check out our Mid-Season Top 50 Prospects by clicking here!

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