The Orioles are in Detroit to play four games against the Tigers and manager Brandon Hyde will decide how to cover center field.
Only one of them can play center. Though teams are doing some crazy things with shifts.
The Orioles view Hays, who had his first career three-hit game Wednesday night, as a potential opening day starter in center. That’s how they’d draw it up. Williams can provide depth and insurance and they’d like to keep him in the organization.
Hays played center again last night and went 0-for-2 with a bases-loaded walk before Williams pinch-hit for him in the ninth inning and struck out. He’s made outstanding catches in left-center and right-center and while coming in and going back on the ball. The tools weren’t stashed in a Norfolk shed.
“He’s done a nice job,” Hyde said. “He’s athletic. He can run. Saw it in spring training. Gap to gap. Love the way he throws. He’s got a plus arm.
“Just think he plays with kind of a no-fear attitude, which I like out there. So I think he’s going to improve as he gets major league innings. But it’s such a small sample, I haven’t seen enough. I’ve just seen him the last few games make some nice plays and go get the ball in front of him a couple times and in the gaps and the ball over his head one time. I think he’s played well.”
Hays is viewed as the better defender, but Williams used to be highly rated prospect in the Yankees system and he slashed 309/.372/.481 with 15 doubles, three triples, 18 home runs and 67 RBIs in 489 plate appearances with the Tides. The Orioles selected his contract earlier this month after rosters expanded.
“Very consistent,” said Norfolk manager Gary Kendall. “His ability to survive in Triple-A is he handled left-handed pitching. He put some good swings on left-handed pitching. Handles the breaking ball, handles mostly every fastball. Guys who had good fastballs or guys who were able to locate, he was able to go the other way.
“Tough out, and actually he drove in a lot of runs for us. Just like (Saturday), left on left and he gets a big sacrifice fly. They are the things he did. He was kind of in the middle of everything that was good in Norfolk this year when we were good offensively.
“He hits a lot of different array of pitches, he’s got some bat speed with some power. He can take a single, he can bunt. He was a pretty good outfielder, let the league in assists. Just did everything for us and was rewarded by coming up here. It was nice.”
Hyde is trying to get an accurate read on former first-round pick DJ Stewart, who’s played left and right field. A sprained ankle and concussion twice put Stewart on the injured list and interrupted the process.
Stewart started in right last night and went 0-for-4. He’s batting .225/.289/.303 with one home run in 30 games.
Eager to prove that he’s a reliable defender, Stewart has dropped a fly ball in right and been hit by one in left. He couldn’t run down Matt Beaty’s liner in the gap last night. But the Orioles are offering an incomplete grade.
“We haven’t gotten the full look because his season’s been kind of broken up with the ankle and then the concussion,” Hyde said. “So I’ve been trying to play him as much as I can and will so the rest of the way.”
The bloated statistics at the Triple-A level are complicating the process of evaluating talent.
“It’s very hard,” executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias.
“We’re adjusting to right now, actually from a statistical standpoint, but the home runs are flying there. Everything’s flying there right now. So there are still some benchmarks like strikeouts and walks that kind of stand the tests of time regardless of the offensive environments, so maybe taking a closer look at that.
“Part of the reason why you want to reward a Mason Williams, who did really well in that regard and have skepticism perhaps when others aren’t posting great numbers. It makes the home runs really hard to read and the Pacific Coast League, which we’re not in, is even crazier.”