The Orioles can't afford to wait too long for Austin Hays to start hitting in 2024

Austin Hays' rough start could cost him his roster spot if he can't turn things around soon.
Milwaukee Brewers v Baltimore Orioles
Milwaukee Brewers v Baltimore Orioles / G Fiume/GettyImages

With the Baltimore Orioles and every team in the league for that matter, there are some really bizarre hot takes running based on a really small sample of games thus far. Fans are giving up on legit superstars and declaring journeymen who have never done anything the next Babe Ruth or Nolan Ryan. It is an early season tale as old as time. However, the start to Austin Hays' season has presented some genuine cause for concern thus far.

So far in 2024 (entering the weekend), Hays has put up a .073/.136/.073 line, which is obviously bad, and he won't stay that bad unless he loses an arm or a leg. However, a look at his peripheral stats from Hays' Statcast page shows little cause for optimism. His batted ball profile the previous couple of years was already suspect, but this year it has been truly abysmal, and one wonders how he could ever fully recover this season, given the poor quality of contact and his swing and miss.

The Orioles are saying all the right things right now by standing behind Hays despite his slump and believing he will come out of it soon. However, with all of the high-end hitting prospects coming up soon, that could change in a hurry, especially with the AL East looking really competitive once again.

Austin Hays needs to be replaced on Baltimore Orioles roster if he can't figure things out soon

In fairness to Hays, he has been dealing with a stomach virus and the after effects early this season, so killing him for a short, early-season slump isn't particularly fair. However, Hays' previous four seasons with the Orioles have shown him to be a very ordinary hitter with an average .750 OPS. He doesn't walk at a particularly high rate, he's averaged 14 homers a year, and is more of a doubles guy, even in the best of times.

Looking down at the minor leagues, the picture is decidedly different. Just at Triple-A, the Orioles have Heston Kjerstad (1.151 OPS in 2024) and Connor Norby (.873 OPS) just sitting there waiting for a chance for some big-league playing time, with Dylan Beavers, Jud Fabian, and Enrique Bradfield lurking just behind them. At this point, any of those guys have more upside than Hays, and probably would be more valuable in the big leagues than Hays right now.

It feels like the Orioles are a little gun shy when it comes to promoting their young hitters right now, especially with Jackson Holliday's early struggles. However, Hays still has a minor league option, and with how rough he has looked this season, the team may have to make a change soon -- even if that change involves continuing to trim Hays' playing time in favor of more playing time for the other guys already in the majors. If they just continue to just let him flounder, it could be the difference between home field or winning the division and fighting for a Wild Card spot this year.

More Orioles News from Birds Watcher