Baltimore Orioles: Austin Hays Won’t Be Heading Out West
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Austin Hays is no longer going to the Arizona Fall League at the conclusion of the MLB season.
If you ask Gary Thorne who he believes will be the starting center fielder for the Baltimore Orioles on Opening Day 2020, I have a feeling he will enthusiastically proclaim Austin Hays as his guy. After an unbelievable month of September, full of highlight reel catches and major league at-bats, I also believe that most of Birdland will agree with that sentiment.
Hays wasn’t supposed to be on the Orioles major league roster this late in the season and was instead destined to finish out the year in the Arizona Fall League to get his work in after missing a big chunk of the 2019 season due to injuries. That’s no longer the case.
As first reported by MASN’s Roch Kubatko ahead of Sunday’s season finale, the Orioles will not be sending Austin Hays to the Arizona Fall League next week, as originally planned.
Since the AFL season started a few days earlier this year, a new rule allowed players to finish their seasons with their major league clubs before reporting out west, hence why Mike Elias elected to bring Austin Hays up over the final few weeks of the regular season.
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In his 20 games with the Orioles this season, all Hays did was impress and then impress some more. Hitting .313 with a .380 OBP and .958 OPS, Hays chipped in four home runs, five doubles, 12 RBI, two stolen bases, and almost as many walks (7) as strikeouts (12).
His bat never really came around to 2016 levels this season with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk but he routinely flashed the leather and his arm strength in the outfield. He turned the defense up a notch once reaching the majors, but more importantly, the bat started coming around.
Hays still has work to do in spring training before he officially earns the starting center field job, but it’s clear he’s done more than enough to put his name at the top of the list. Personally, I’m not mad at the decision to keep Hays out of the Arizona Fall League. The last thing we need to hear is Hays suffering another injury which takes away his offseason.
Stay safe, Hays. See you next season, healthy and ready to take the American League East by storm.