BOWIE, Md. - Orioles minor league outfielder Austin Hays turned 22 yesterday. He will probably remember being 21 rather fondly.
In just over a 12-month span, he has been drafted in the third round by the Orioles out of Jacksonville University, hit .336 at short season Single-A Aberdeen, hit .328 at Single-A Frederick and now is batting .339 at Double-A Bowie.
Isn’t it supposed to get harder as you go up?
Hays was recently named the organization’s Player of the Month for June, batting .373 with eight homers and 22 RBIs in 26 games. The month began with him at Frederick, and on June 22 he was moved up to Double-A.
So far the Eastern League hasn’t slowed his bat. In his first 14 Bowie games he is hitting .339 with four doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs.
Bowie manager Gary Kendall has seen some good players pass his way, and Hays is the latest.
“Good fastball hitter,” Kendall said. “Likes the ball up, chases the ball up a little bit. In comparison to a guy I had in the minors in rookie ball was Jonathan Schoop. They are very similar in regard to that they look to hit. They will get their fair share of chasing balls up and they may swing through some, but they’re aggressive. For me, personally, in development, I’d rather have that than a passive approach. You see it with Jon where he now knows the strike zone and I think Austin is going to have the same approach. He really thinks hit first, and that makes him aggressive and dangerous up there.
“He’s more pull-oriented now, but he’s young. This guy has moved through our system pretty quick. He needs some work hitting the breaking ball and using the whole field. But he can trust himself, because he’s got good bat speed.”
Hays is playing to good reviews on offense and defense, and his combined numbers for Frederick and Bowie are pretty special. Over 78 games, he is batting .330/.363/.588 with 19 doubles, three triples, 19 homers and 53 RBIs. He leads all O’s minor leaguers in homers and has produced for both batting average and power.
“Well, he has good eye-hand coordination for one,” Kendall said of Hays showing the bat tool and the power tool. “He’s got bat speed and good ingredients to hit. He’s got good balance in the batter’s box and doesn’t overstride. He’s got nice body control, a really fast bat and some strength. He shows you a lot of tools.
“He runs everything out. Everyone should do it, but this guy hits a pop up to the infield and he’s almost on second when it gets caught. That is great to see. He leaves it on the field. He provides a lot of energy to our lineup.”
“The good ones kind of hit the ground running,” he said of when they got promoted here.
Does Hays’ early success remind him of that trio?
“Very similar. The ingredient with all of them is they all had bat speed, they were strong and they all used the middle to the big part of the field, and they were talented, polished hitters. Those guys have certain things they bring to the table, and I think it only gets better when they start playing with better players and get challenged.”
Cedric the ballplayer: He was the talk of Orioles spring training camp, and yet he was not even a non-roster player. But minor league outfielder Cedric Mullins kept getting called over from minors camp in Florida in March and kept impressing O’s manager Buck Showalter. He did so well that the Orioles decided to bypass Single-A Frederick and start Mullins at Double-A this year. He played for Single-A Delmarva in 2016.
Mullins made that decision look wise when he hit .455 with five doubles, a triple and three homers in his first first 10 games with Bowie. In his first game in the Eastern League, he went 4-for-5 with a homer.
But then he was slowed. Not by a pitcher, but an injury. Mullins strained his left hamstring. An injury that initially was only likely to keep him out two or three weeks kept him off the field from April 21 to June 4.
Did it take a lot longer than he figured it would to get back in the lineup?
“It did, honestly,” Mullins said Wednesday at Prince George’s Stadium. “Being that it was my first injury, didn’t really know what to expect. But all the guys in Florida worked with me the entire time to make sure I was truly ready to get back.
“Now I’m feeling great. Taking it day-by-day. Making sure every day I come in early to continue to stretch it out. Do everything I can to be sure I’m game-ready.”
Mullins got two hits in his first game back. Although his batting average eventually fell out of the high 300s, his numbers remain strong.
Through 42 Baysox games, Mullins is batting .318/.356/.543 with 13 doubles, a triple, eight homers, 35 runs and 24 RBIs. Over his past six games he is 10-for-25 (.400) with four doubles.
Update: Well, I jinxed Mullins by writing this before the second game was played last night. After one at-bat, Mullins came out of the game due to a hamstring spasm. He was taken out for precautionary reasons and hopefully this was just a small setback.
Bowie won two games on Wednesday at Prince George’s Stadium. In the completion of Tuesday’s suspended game, Bowie beat Hartford 4-3 in 12 innings. Down by one in the last of the 12th, Audry Perez singled in the tie run and Adrian Marin singled in the walk-off run to provide Bowie the win. In the regularly scheduled game, Bowie beat Hartford 7-2. Mike Yastrzemski went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
Bowie is 44-41 and has won eight in a row at home. The Baysox are 13-5 their last 18 games and are now a 1/2-game back of first-place Akron.
Also on the farm last night: Triple-A Norfolk lost 10-3 at Gwinnett. Losing pitcher Chris Lee gave up nine hits and seven runs over 4 1/3 innings and is 3-5 with a 6.32 ERA. Chris Johnson and Johnny Giavotella had two hits each.
Single-A Frederick was rained out at Potomac. The game will be made up as a part of a doubleheader Saturday, with two seven-inning games starting at 5:15 p.m.
Single-A Delmarva beat Lakewood 2-0. Aussie-born lefty Alexander Wells pitched seven shutout innings, allowing three hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Wells is 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA and he recorded his sixth quality start in his last seven outings. Steven Klimek and Jake Bray handled the final six outs as Delmarva picked up its fourth shutout win of the season.
Short-season Single-A Aberdeen had its seven-game win streak snapped with a 5-3 loss to Lowell. The Orioles’ 2017 Competitive Balance Round B draft pick, lefty Zac Lowther, pitched three scoreless innings with five strikeouts. The No. 74 overall pick in the draft has thrown six scoreless on 10 strikeouts to begin his pro career. Catcher Ben Breazeale, the club’s seventh-round selection out of Wake Forest, went 4-for-5 and is batting .486.
The Gulf Coast League Orioles lost 3-0 to the Red Sox. Third-round draft pick, right-hander Michael Baumann out of Jacksonville University, made his pro debut. He allowed two hits but pitched a scoreless first inning with two strikeouts. The Dominican Summer League Orioles lost to the Reds, 5-4. Right-hander Edwin Rojas pitched seven innings, allowing three runs (one earned run).