I’m an unapologetic Twitter fiend, and sometimes, that’s a good thing.
While there are days where Twitter likes to persuade you that the world is going to end, there are others when it makes the time spent decimating 20/16 vision into ashes well worth the fire.
For example, I thoroughly enjoy that I’m able to follow the Orioles’ minor league clubs with regularity, especially as someone who lives far and away out of Maryland. Names like Cedric Mullins, Keegan Akin and Anthony Santander (whom you all will soon love as much I) are repeat offenders, and while the Orioles may not be as reputable at producing as much grain on the farm, they still have some players worth tending to.
One such player is Austin Hays, who Mr. Joe Wedra introduced us to earlier this week in another terrific interview.
I’m a sucker for a guy who doesn’t wear batting gloves, and after finding out that his mom drew a line in the sand when he kept ripping said gloves on the base paths, he turned into a guy that PFT Commenter would happily bestow a gritcoin. For a 22-year-old to appear very down to Earth, while also showing off the on-the-field qualities your grandpa covets, Hays becomes a guy who is naturally easy to root for.
Even if that was all the ammunition we had, Hays has continued to be a force at every level of the minor league system. That’s a quick way to our hearts too.
Hays was a third-round pick last summer (91st overall), auditioning as a two-year starter at Jacksonville University, His sophomore season was solid, slashing .271/.345/.385 in his first 56 games with the Dolphins. As a junior however, Hays, who plays bigger than his listed 6-1, 195-pound frame, tapped into his inner power.
In the 54 games his final season at Jacksonville, Hays slashed .350/.406/.655, while knocking 16 home runs compared to only three the year before. Adding more doubles and stolen bases while striking out less, Hays showed he was settling into his frame. Using a third-round pick on a 20-year-old showing a blend of speed and power isn’t a tough call, but the pace at which Hays continues to hit makes you wonder what exactly the Orioles saw.
A lot of good things, I can tell you.
Yeah, yeah, it’s a 3-0 fastball, whatever. That’s a fun swing.
Last month, Hays chatted with MASN’s Steve Melewski, who asked the now 22-year-old why his power has translated from college to A-ball and now with Bowie, and his initial reaction was to credit his hands. As Hays has said and proven, the kid possesses a pair of thunderbolts.
Though the sample of videos you can find online is limited, everything I was able to find showed a hitter that is pretty much a dead-red pull guy. Or you could just look at his career 52.1 percent pull rate as a minor leaguer, but to each his own. Even so, in all of the available video evidence, not to mention a current .340/.372/.648 slash (175 wRC+) and rather low 15.6 percent strikeout rate, it doesn’t look like Hays gets fooled much. The thing is, having a quick bat can do that.
In what was one of his 11 Bowie home runs, Hays was offered what appeared to be an 0-2 changeup that a pitcher would like to see rolled over or whiffed at. Instead, Hays keeps his hands back and explodes on a pitch that has no business knocking branches out of the trees. Not only does keep his weight back, but he hits a ball to left field with unusual authority, signs indicative of a hitter capable of posting the numbers Hays has.
No one is saying that Austin Hays is going to turn into Josh Donaldson, but he does have a little Donaldson to his offense. Less pronounced in loading both his hands and leg, Hays does sync the two much like Donaldson. Perhaps more importantly, Hays shows the same ability to throw his hands at the baseball, another prerequisite to hitting the baseball with serious exit velocity. His swing is as smooth as it is violent.
The Orioles have earned the label of a downtrodden farm system, but when you look at a guy like Trey Mancini, whose natural hitting talents have managed to best every level of professional baseball, sometimes the things the Orioles like do end up panning out.
Hays, like Mancini, has a legitimate offensive foundation that doesn’t need a lot of tweaking. He just needs more at-bats. Hays’ bat speed is a standard above, and he seems like a guy with a tendency to barrel baseballs—both funs things to think about at the major league level. As the Orioles do on occasion, they seem to have a found a player that brings excitement to the table.
If the Orioles’ potential fallout does come to fruition in the near future, Hays has the look of a player to ease some nerves.