Baltimore Orioles prospect Austin Hays could miss significant time, once again.
Austin Hays hasn’t been in the Baltimore Orioles organization for very long (a third-round draft pick back in 2016), but he’s quickly established himself as a quality hitter, versatile defender, and an exciting young piece to look forward to. Unfortunately, injuries continue to keep Austin Hays off the field.
Back on June 19th, the Norfolk Tides outfielder suffered a strained hamstring while attempting to beat out a groundball to third base in a game against Aaron Judge and the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Railriders. David Hall of The Virginian-Pilot confirmed the injury on Monday afternoon via Twitter.
The Scranton broadcast team noted that Hays had limped off the field after his groundout, but I thought nothing of it as I continued to watch the Norfolk bullpen blow yet another game down on the farm. But then Hays didn’t return to the field. Then he didn’t play the next night, or the night after that. Now we know why.
Just looking at his recent injury history, Hays saw his 2018 season end early after undergoing ankle surgery. It cost him most of the offseason, but seemed to have no impact as he began 2019 on the Orioles spring training roster. Hays hit .351 with five home runs and a 1.277 OPS in 12 spring training games, leading many to wonder if he would break camp with the big league Orioles.
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Despite his hot spring, Mike Elias quickly made it clear that he wanted his prospects to fully develop in the minor leagues and sent Hays to AAA Norfolk to begin the regular season. Then disaster struck, once again. Hays suffered a thumb injury while sliding into a base before the start of the season, costing him about a month of playing time.
Once he returned to action, Hays began his rehab in High-A with the Frederick Keys, moving over to center field. The move came as a bit of surprise, but with Cedric Mullins unable to find his footing in 2019 and Keon Broxton clearly acting as just a placeholder and not the center fielder of the future for the Baltimore Orioles, a switch to center meant a possible faster path back to the majors.
After nine games with the Keys and 14 with the Bowie Baysox, Hays earned himself a promotion to AAA Norfolk, where he was hitting .216 with a home run in 10 games. Entering June 19th, Hays had reached base in five-straight games with the Tides as he began to settle into the International League. Now, Hays finds himself on the minor league Injured List, once again.
There’s no set timetable for his return yet, but a hamstring strain could mean just a few days of rest to a few months of recovery and rehab. With just over two months left in the minor league regular season, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for Hays to make a comeback, if the injury is serious.
Get well soon, Austin Hays. We will be sure to update with any new developments.