Orioles minor league outfielder Austin Hays has been hitting well pretty much since his first day in the organization. He hasn’t been slowed down much since they selected him in the third round of the 2016 draft. His rapid rise through the farm system and recent promotion to Double-A Bowie has some wondering how soon he can get to Baltimore.
Taken with the No. 91 selection out of Jacksonville University, Hays, who just turned 22 last Wednesday, hit .336 last season with short-season Single-A Aberdeen. Skipping past Single-A Delmarva and sent to Single-A Frederick to start this year, he hit .328/.364/.592 in 64 games for the Keys with 15 doubles, three triples, 16 homers, 41 RBIs and an OPS of .956.
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.
In 18 games with Bowie, the right-handed hitting Hays is batting .329/.351/.507 with four doubles, three homers, 14 RBIs and an OPS of .857.
“Just have had a lot of confidence going out there,” Hays said about his strong play in 2017. “Had a lot of fun playing every day and the results are taking care of themselves. I’m just staying with the process.
“I like it (at Double-A) so far. It’s more competitive. I feel like there are a lot more strikes being thrown. I like how the pace of the game is faster. I like that there is a (pitch) clock. Whether it’s just good or bad, ball or strike, it’s on to the next pitch. Just the flow of the game is a lot faster and I’m a fan of that. Right now, I don’t feel a need to change anything. It’s what got me here. It’s been working, so no need to change it until it fails I guess.”
Yeah, don’t change a thing when it’s going this well. Hays is a high-intensity, high-energy player. Bowie manager Gary Kendall said he brings that energy to the rest of his team.
“I don’t know if it effects the way other guys play,” Hays said. “But that is my personality and how I have fun playing the game. I feel like that is what I bring to the table. If it helps the guys around me, that is another plus.”
Hays seems to have a calm demeanor away from the field and seems to be taking a lot of the attention he is now getting in stride. But he’s got a fast motor on the field, seen in a recent game by his all-out dive on the warning track in center for a drive out near the wall. He came up short in getting to the ball, getting only a face full of warning track for his troubles.
“He runs everything out,” Kendall said. “Everyone should do it, but this guy hits a popup 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.”
So far, Hays is showing the ability to hit for both average and power.
“I feel like I have a good combination of size and speed,” he said. “So I have quick hands and I can generate power with that quickness, but also I have good bat control and that kind of plays for the average side, too.”
At Bowie, Hays has often played in an outfield that includes two other outfield prospects in DJ Stewart and Cedric Mullins, although Mullins recently went back on the disabled list with a hamstring issue.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Hays said. “I got to play with those guys in spring training and see the high level of skill that they have. It has been awesome to be playing with them every day. We’re all in this together and we’re all grinding. Hopefully we help each other and better the team.”
Now that he is one large step closer to the majors in the Eastern League, Hays could be knocking on the door to Baltimore possibly as soon as next year.
“I mean it’s been my goal since I was a kid to make it to the big leagues,” he said. “It is still my dream now. I am one step closer, but I’m just taking it day-by-day and at-bat-by-at-bat. Just staying with the process and trusting it. It is what I’ve always wanted.”
Johnny Baseball is an All-Star: As Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop gets set to play in his first All-Star Game tonight, here is another look at a feature on him published a few days ago in this space. O’s hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh talked about Schoop’s improved bat.