On September 5th, the Orioles decided to call up Austin Hays, a pretty good outfield prospect who was starting to get some recognition for his stellar minor league season. Hays was batting .329/.365/.593 over two minor league levels. Over the course of 128 games he hit 32 home runs and 32 doubles.
He destroyed minor league pitching and finally got some national attention for it. Including being a finalist for Baseball America’s minor league player of the year and being named to the Eastern League All Star team by Baseball America, along with teammate DJ Stewart, another possible Orioles outfielder of the future.
Hays was taken off a Bowie team in the middle of the playoffs and had his service time clock started. He even had to be added to the 40 man roster to do so meaning they also had to designate Jayson Aquino for assignment. All of these things would indicate to a normal person that Hays was being called up to contribute to the big league team. Aquino cleared waivers and was outrighted to Norfolk.
After all, Hays is a right-handed hitting outfielder and according the scouts he has an above-average fielding ability. On top of that, he has shown an ability to hit for power and average in the minor leagues. The Orioles have been trotting out Joey Rickard, Craig Gentry, and even Mark Trumbo into right field.
All three have their obvious deficiencies either at the plate, in the field, or in both arenas. For Trumbo and Rickard, those deficiencies were on display to anyone who has watched the series against the Blue Jays.
The need for playing time for Hays seems somewhat obvious. However, since his surprise call up Hays has managed to be in two games, one as a defensive replacement, and only three plate appearances.
Hays again did not start last night against a left-handed pitcher, instead Joey Rickard got the start. There are a couple of possible reasons for this and all of them are at best stupid and at worst a sign of a poor organization.
Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette are not on the same page
There has been plenty of writing and reporting about the Orioles front office and how it “continues to be unsteady.” It is possible Duquette saw Hays as an upgrade in the outfield, but Showalter did not. With the Orioles still paying lip service to the idea of being in a playoff race, Showalter seems to have decided to stick with his veteran players rather than hand over playing time to a rookie.
I believe that Showalter all too often defers to his veterans giving them playing time over other players that he should not, sticking with them too long, or even giving them preferential treatment as far as lineup, rotation, or bullpen construction goes. He has a long leash, which has merits, but can at times can be frustrating.
However, if Showalter never intended to play Hays, why bring him up? He is only rotting away on the bench, starting his service time, and not contributing where he could be. For this reason, I think this is not likely what happened, however it is worth mentioning because of past reports of front office tension.
To give Hays a taste of the Major Leagues
The other more likely, and in fact the one the Orioles have given, is to give Hays a taste of the major league life. To put him in the clubhouse and reward him for an excellent minor league season. They have also said similar things about calling up one of their other decent prospects Chance Sisco. This reason, is well....it’s pretty stupid.
They took Hays off a playoff team roster to not play him for basically a month. They could have easily kept him down at Bowie until their season ended, and then called him up. Instead they ripped Bowie’s best player off of their roster in order for him to absorb some much needed “veteranosity” on the bench.
On top of that, Hays is a better option then what the Orioles currently have, or at least has the potential to be. For reference, the projection system Steamer predicts Hays would post a 100 wRC the rest of the way. That is an exactly league average batter. Rickard projects to a 83 wRC+ and Gentry a 69 wRC+. Hays is, in all likelihood, better than the veterans that are playing above him.
Lastly, The Orioles are all but out of the playoffs they can only afford to lose at most four more games this season and they have a murderous end of season schedule. This is time to see what they might have for 2018, even if it is only a couple of weeks.
This also applies to Chance Sisco and Anthony Santander. Seth Smith, Welington Castillo, and others are unlikely to be Orioles in 2018. Why not see what the players that will be around can do for you?
The Orioles called up Austin Hays and he has barely played. This is either due to organizational dysfunction or a misread of their current roster. The Orioles have started his service time in order for him to not contribute.
Even though Hays is probably the best option they have to play in right field at the very least against left-handed pitching. Moreover, they are all but eliminated from playoff contention and insist on playing veterans and soon-to-be free agents over the players who might actually be around in 2018.
Whichever explanation is the right one, the Orioles are not playing Austin Hays and there seems to be no good reason why.