As you now have probably heard, the Orioles have called up super outfield prospect Austin Hays. For you loyal Camden Chat readers, you appreciate just how big this is for all of us here on this site. Hays has been “the guy” for a while now and you won’t find a group happier with this news than Camden Chat readers/writers.
If you missed it from last month, we published a story after an interview with Hays in which he talked about many things regarding his baseball career (including a great story he shared on why he doesn’t wear batting gloves at the plate).
To be sure, yesterday’s news came as a bit of a surprise. As our Mark Brown mentioned, this is quite the development for a Hays, who wasn’t a professional baseball player last May. And if you honestly think about that, it’s pretty shocking that he has found his way onto a major league roster just over a year into his career.
Ultimately the move to the bright lights of Camden Yards makes plenty of sense — this guy has been really, really, really good.
You’ve seen the numbers before, but it’s worth spotlighting, once more, just how much Hays tormented opposing pitching throughout his short time in the minors:
2016 (Aberdeen): 140 ABs, 4 HR, 21 RBI, .336/.386/.514
2017 (Frederick): 262 ABs, 16 HR, 41 RBI, .328/.364/.592
2017 (Bowie): 261 ABs, 16 HR, 54 RBI, .330/.367/.594
Prospects just don’t follow that path after promotions. Almost always, there’s a significant dip in production early before returning to previous form, and that’s with baseball’s best prospects. Hays is different.
You could make the argument that numbers can be deceiving and the talent he’ll be seeing at the Major League level will be unlike anything he’s seen. And without a doubt, both of those points are valid. However at least in terms of numbers, where are the holes in Hays’ game? He didn’t just go on a mere run following the promotion to Bowie. He compiled 261 at-bats with the Baysox. He played in 64 games at both Frederick and Bowie and simply dominated. It’s not time for a Cooperstown invite, but the success clearly isn’t an aberration.
Against left-handers this season, Hays was 62 for 151, good for a .411 average. He’s posted a .576 total slugging percentage over 663 pro at-bats. There’s also the .370 on-base percentage over his 166 games.
We can look all day for a weakness, but on paper, there just isn’t one.
It almost definitely isn’t “too soon”
In seemingly every call-up that comes early in a prospect’s career, there exists the argument that teams run the risk of rushing that player along. You don’t have to scan the league for too long to see instances of prospects disappointing after an early entrance to the league, and those cases almost always spark the debate of when is “too soon” for a young prospect.
In many cases, this is a fair conversation. For Hays and the Orioles though, it likely doesn’t apply.
The decision to give Hays the call, unlike many situations, doesn’t come with any added pressure for the 22-year-old. He isn’t being called up in the middle of the season, he won’t be entered into the lineup right away and there certainly isn’t an immediate need for him to produce to get the Orioles into the playoffs. It’s a clear low-risk, high-reward decision.
Over the next month, Hays will get the opportunity to soak up the big-league lifestyle and work alongside some great talents that he obviously hasn’t the chance to play with during his short stint in the minors. Rather than watching the playoff run from home, why not spend valuable weeks with the likes of Trey Mancini, Jonathan Schoop and Manny Machado for the first time?
There’s no stress, only the opportunity to be around Buck Showalter and his guys during a playoff push. And along the way, he’ll get his first looks at big-league pitching as he looks ahead to the offseason and making the Opening Day roster in 2018. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
A look ahead
This news is encouraging for 2017, but it’s most telling toward what the organization has in mind for the 2018 season. With the call-up this September, Hays is set to be in the lineup when next season kicks off next April. That’s what makes this move such a no-brainer, no matter what his results look like in limited appearances this month.
The roster makeup spells out a pretty clear truth, and it has for a while — the Orioles need a corner outfielder for the future. It happened quickly; Hays has emerged as seemingly the perfect player to fill the need.
For now, it’ll just be enjoyable to keep track of his progression. Who knows, maybe the Hays jerseys will be flooding Camden Yards next spring.