Baltimore Orioles top 10 prospects for 2019

SARASOTA, FL- MARCH 08: A Baltimore Orioles hat is seen against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 8, 2017 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
SARASOTA, FL- MARCH 08: A Baltimore Orioles hat is seen against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 8, 2017 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** /
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5. Austin Hays, OF

Birthday: 7/5/1995 (23)
Acquired: Draft, 3rd round, 2016
Level(s): short-season A-ball Aberdeen, AA Bowie
Statistics: .235/.266/.410, 75 G, 327 PA, 14 2B, 2 3B, 12 HR, 6 SB, 4.3% BB, 20.2% K

The 2018 season of Austin Hays was a great example of what can happen when a hitter has a bit too much success too soon! After coasting his way up to the major leagues in 2017, hitting .329 with 32 home runs in the minors in his first full season in the organization, Hays suffered big setbacks via injury and performance in 2018.

While the injuries could not be adjusted for, Hays’ swing changed drastically in 2018, and that led to a lot of the struggles he saw. To his credit, his impressive bat speed kept his strikeout rate quite reasonable, but rather than using the whole field the way he had as an amateur and in his first minor league season, Hays got pull-happy and tried to yank every pitch to left field.

Coming out of the 2017 season, the profile to write on Hays was that his biggest development left was simply letting pitches go, as his aggressive all-fields approach was led by a very adept contact ability that allowed him to hit well and keep his strikeouts low, but it also led to a fairly low walk rate. Otherwise, his overall skill base was that of a prototype right fielder.

Hays will likely open 2019 back in Bowie, with a quick trigger up to AAA and the majors as his advanced hitting skills could be useful in a lineup of three true outcome hitters. Defensively, he and projected Baltimore Orioles starting center fielder Cedric Mullins played very well together in the outfield, and they could be spending plenty of 2019 together in the outfield as well.