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Orioles prospect season in review: Austin Hays

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He’s still a prospect, but Hays sure looks like he’s here for the long haul in Baltimore.

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports

It feels like we’ve written about Austin Hays a time or two this season. It might be a bit of a stretch to call 2017 on Camden Chat the “Year of Hays”, but he’s certainly been a trend in every-day conversation, and for good reason. The Orioles season is going to end in a disappointing fashion — but if there’s good news to cling onto and run into the offseason with, it’s the fact that it sure appears Hays is here to stay for at-least the foreseeable future in Baltimore.

After all, he skipped two levels of the minor leagues. In one year!

When the news came out before the season that Hays would be skipping Delmarva and entering 2017 play with the Keys, it’d wasn’t truly much of a surprise. Not only did he absolutely crush NY-Penn League pitching in his rookie debut, but it made sense, looking back, that the organization realized there was plenty of talent within Hays’ grasp to begin the year in the Carolina League. It was likely an easy decision that didn’t come with a terrible amount of stress.

When Hays posted a .328/.362/.592 slash line in Frederick through 64 games, there probably wasn’t much doubt — again — that he was ready to take another jump. But what he did in Bowie in the same number of games was something that would most definitely fall under the category of unbelievable. And that’s saying a lot in this crazy game of baseball.

Prospects just one year removed from being drafted don’t hit .330 in double-A, but that’s what he did. They don’t combine for 32 home runs, 95 RBI and a .365 on-base percentage, but it’s pretty clear that Hays isn’t your average prospect.

He ripped through the system, dominated seemingly everyone in his path and truly earned his call-up. All without batting gloves.

Hays has 12 hits in his first 50 MLB at-bats, and while that works out to be just a .240 average on paper, it might just be the most impressive .240 average ever recorded to start a career in The Show. Perhaps that’s another exaggeration, but just take a step back and think about the big picture in Hays’ case.

About a year and a half ago, he had wrapped up his time at Jacksonville University and was entering the 2016 Draft as a relative unknown. Sure, he had the eyes of plenty of pro scouts and was a lock to be selected, but third-round picks aren’t locks to pan out over the course of four or five years, forget 15 months.

It’s been just a handful of games with the big-league club and we’ve all seen why Hays is here. There’s hustle, there’s a clear ability to dig in at the dish (even against big-league pitchers) and a mature approach that fits right in with the game at its highest level.

Considering his journey, that .240 average is one heck of an accomplishment.

This weekend’s final series will be invaluable, providing more reps and perhaps a chance to hit the offseason sprinting with another step up the ladder in his career. Sure, there’s a level of unknown, but that arrow stays pointing in the upward direction.

We’ll leave with a quote from his interview with Camden Chat earlier in the year to help us appreciate just how unique and truly of a journey its been for Hays:

“I definitely think about the future, thinking that last year a little over a year ago I was still in college and going through the draft process, just getting into professional baseball,” he said. “And now, I’m at the double-A level here. It just gives you confidence knowing that you have good ability and if you keep doing consistent work on the field every day and you keep getting better, it’s becoming realistic that the lifelong dream is that much closer.”

The dream is a reality.

Baltimore is certainly rooting for you, Austin.