Austin Hays off to slow start with bad approach

Orioles Consensus top prospect

There is little doubt it’s early in the season and the weather has been terrible. Normally I don’t start paying too close attention to results until about a month into the season, but obviously we pay very close detail to the top prospects.

Austin Hays is coming off his minor league player of the year season, and was named our number one prospect in the system so of course he gets extra attention. He’s off to a slow start slashing just .233/.283/.372/.655 with two home runs and a 3-12 BB-K ratio in his first 46 PAs this season.

I decided to go back and watch many of his at bats this season and the one thing that is very clear is his approach has changed from last year to this year. Hays is swinging with a very pronounced, long, upper cut swing and trying to pull everything.

Last year, although he would probably be considered a pull hitter, he showed the ability to hit the ball to the other field.

In 2017, here’s Hays’ hit spray chart

Left Field –     24.5%
Shortstop –    16.0%
Third Base –   13.9%
Pull Total  – 54.4%

Center Field-   17.8%
Pitcher      –      1.9%
Middle Total – 19.7% 

Right Field   – 13.7%
Secondbase –   7.0%
First Base   –    4.4%
Oppo Total –   25.1%

This season, Hays is trying to pull everything. He’s pulling his head out and trying to pull everything including outside pitches.

In 2018, here’s Hays’ hit spray chart

Left Field –     29.7%
Shortstop –    18.5%
Third Base –   14.8%
Pull Total  –   63%

Center Field-   22.2%
Pitcher      –      0%
Middle Total – 22.2% 

Right Field   – 11.1%
Secondbase –   3.7%
First Base   –       0%
Oppo Total –   14.8%

He’s struggling with offspeed pitches, which is something he struggled with at times last year as well, but he’s swinging through 91-92 MPH fastballs due to his upper cut swing that doesn’t stay in the zone very long. He’s striking out 32.6% of the time after striking out in just 15.9% in 283 AA PAs last year.

Hays has the bat speed and hands to be a very good hitter, so it’s really surprising to see him using this approach. It’s almost like someone told him he needs to hit a bunch of home runs and to be aggressive.

It might be a good idea for someone to show him some video footage of Trey Mancini in order to see what a good all field approach looks like.

It’s still very early and Hays has all the tools to make some adjustments and be a successful hitter, but right now he needs to change his approach or he’s going to have a setback year.

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Tony Pente
Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.