2018 Level: AA
Current/Future/Ceiling Grades: 40/50/55
What we know:
Hays dealt with several injuries in 2018. First it was a lat issue in spring training, then a complicated issue with a stress fracture and a ganglion cyst in his ankle that he played through at times later in the year. He had surgery following the season to fix the ankle issue and with a solid rehab, he shouldn’t have any lingering effects going forward. Hays got off to a rough start with the bat, perhaps trying to do too much after getting sent back to Bowie. He’s always an aggressive hitter, but that aggression turned into getting himself out rather than attacking mistakes. He looked more like his 2017 version of himself once he returned in late July from a two-month hiatus due to the ankle issues. When he’s on, he’s shown the ability to hit for power and average. Defensively he has a strong right fielders arm and some ability to play center field in a pinch, though he’s better suited as a corner outfielder.
What we don’t know:
The big question is what does the hit tool look like at the big league level? Were his struggles more about nagging injuries affecting him or did pitchers just figure out how to exploit his aggressive nature? Will his aggressive approach be exploited by big league pitchers?
What we think:
Although he didn’t put together a strong season, most of the tools that made him a top prospect in 2017 were still apparent. He still shows above average arm, power, and glove in RF. 2018 was a setback, but Hays is a plus makeup player who should bounce back and develop into a solid corner outfielder with some pop. Whether he can tone down his overly aggressiveness and let pitchers come to him more will determine whether he can reach his ceiling.
Written by: Luke Siler in collaboration with Tony Pente