Baltimore Orioles outfielder Austin Hays had an impressive showing in 2019. Hays has the chance to become the face of the Orioles rebuild.
The Baltimore Orioles are facing another rebuilding year under GM Mike Elias. 2020 is sure to be another difficult year in Baltimore but they have a budding star in Austin Hays who could become the face of the franchise.
Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2016 draft out of Jacksonville, Hays debuted in 2017 but had quite a poor showing with a 40 wRC+ and -0.7 fWAR. Fast forward to 2019, Hays had a much more exciting time in Baltimore hitting a robust .309/.373/.574 with a strong 146 wRC+ over 21 games.
Even better is Hays showed refined plate discipline, walking in 9% of time and striking out just 17% compared to 3% and 25% the first go around. That refined plate discipline allowed Hays to tap into his 60 grade power, with an average exit velocity of 89.8 MPH. If Hays can maintain that over a full season, he would be a top 100 hitter by exit velocity and smack 25 home runs.
Hays will enter 2020 looking to win the full-time center field job and cement himself as one of the faces of the Orioles rebuild. Hays has a profile to be a star in Baltimore. To get an idea of Hays upside, consider his prospect report from FanGraphs:
Every now and then, toolsy college prospects turn into George Springer. Their swing and approach are refined with pro instruction, and previously dormant production suddenly shows up in games. It seemed like Hays was quickly becoming this sort of player during his 2017 breakout, a power/speed monster who had one of the best statistical line in the minors that year.
The Orioles are obviously hoping the George Springer outcome comes true and Hays will get every opportunity to prove that. Hays will be one of the biggest names to watch in Baltimore even in a down 2020 season.
He has a chance to be the first cog in the next great Baltimore Orioles team and take over from Adam Jones as the face of the franchise patrolling CF.