Are the Orioles ready to turn over right field to Austin Hays?

After he has had 63 plate appearances in the majors, are the Orioles prepared to turn over right field to Austin Hays in 2018? Should they make that bold move?

It would be a bit of a bold move for a player that has only 166 minor league games and one full season on the farm under his belt. He was drafted in the third round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft and became the first player from that draft class to make the majors.

Austin Hays swinging gray sidebar.jpgHays had an amazing minor league season, one that began at Single-A Frederick and then moved to Double-A Bowie on June 22. Hays played 64 games for both Frederick and Bowie and posted nearly identical numbers for both affiliates. He managed to hit slightly better across the board at Double-A. His average went from .328 with the Keys to .330 with Bowie. His on-base percentage went from .364 to .367, his slugging from .592 to .594 and his OPS from .956 to .960.

Hays led all minor league players in total bases (310) and ranked second in home runs (32) and extra-base hits (69). He hit .411 against left-handers on the farm. He was the Orioles’ minor league Player of the Year, winning the Brooks Robinson Award, and was a finalist for Baseball America’s Player of the Year honor.

After an 0-for-7 start with the Orioles, he had his first two hits Sept. 16 at New York, including his first major league homer in the ninth. He went 9-for-24 during a six-game stretch. But he was also 2-for-22 over his last six games to finish with a .217 average in 20 games.

The Orioles certainly have room for Hays in their outfield. Craig Gentry and Seth Smith are pending free agents. Even if they carry Rule 5 pick Anthony Santander to start the year, they still have room for Hays. But are they prepared to turn over right field to the youngster and ride out the ups and downs?

After Hays was added to the roster Sept. 5, it seemed skipper Buck Showalter was reluctant to start him for several days. Is Showalter comfortable with the kid playing every day?

Will Hays begin 2018 in Triple-A or in the Orioles’ outfield?

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