by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
It’s been a miserable season for the Orioles’ Austin Hays, as he’s missed time with an ankle injury and struggled miserably when he’s been on the field. On August 10 he was hitting just .224 with 6 HR over 192 AB at Double-A, but since then he’s potentially found his footing. It’s not that he’s suddenly put together a big hitting streak, but he’s had two of his biggest games of the season:
- August 14 – 3-3, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R
- August 17 – 4-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R
Those two games have helped to raise his average to .246 (through August 17), though he’s been hitting better in August since returning from the DL (.364/.364/.667 over 8 games and 33 AB). It’s not a very large sample size , but at least it gives us something the hang our hats on for a player who hit .329 with 32 HR just a year ago.
The question is going to be whether or not he can continue this type of improvement. Overall in the minors he’s shown a poor approach this season (21.4% strikeout rate, 4.3% walk rate) as he’s clearly struggled with swings and misses (14.4% SwStr%). He showed similar issues last season (12.1% SwStr%), so the fact that he struggled initially against more advanced pitching shouldn’t come as a surprise (especially after he missed time during Spring Training with a shoulder injury).
However his time on the shelf may have helped him get things right. Just look at this quote from Hays, courtesy of Vincent Lara-Cinisomo of MILB.com (click here for the full article):
“But the way Spring Training went and how I started the season here, I think it was for the best. I don’t think I was ready, but now that I’ve had some time to get my body healthy and get right and make some adjustments, I think it was a smart move and a good decision by the Orioles to allow me to work on some things and get myself right before throwing me back in there.”
The quote was referring to the Majors, after he reached there last season, but it’s telling all the same. It looks like he has potentially rediscovered his timing and could start to put up some big numbers. If/when that happens, a return to the Majors and an impact awaits.
Are we willing to bank on it? No, as no one is going to draw conclusions off of two games. That said there’s enough upside to watch closely and hope. There’s opportunity for a rebuilding Orioles’ team, it’s just a matter of him seizing it.
Sources – Fangraphs, MILB.com