Hays' healthy finish gives Orioles hope his best is yet to come; Arizona Fall League update - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Rich Dubroff

Hays’ healthy finish gives Orioles hope his best is yet to come; Arizona Fall League update

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon


During the dismal 2021 season, the Orioles might have discovered that Austin Hays is part of a brighter future. The beginning of the season wasn’t very good for Hays. After an outstanding spring training, Hays suffered a right hamstring injury in the Orioles’ third game and, in late May, he had another hamstring injury.

Hays, who had a history of injuries, missed 28 games during the two stints on the injured list, but those were nearly all the games he missed in 2021.

After returning from the second hamstring injury on June 11th, Hays missed only two more games and proved that perhaps he’s more durable than some originally thought.

Hays hit .256, second only to Cedric Mullins’ .291. His 22 home runs trailed only Ryan Mountcastle’s 33 and Mullins’ 30, and his 71 RBIs tied with Trey Mancini for second on the team behind Mountcastle’s 89.

Hays had a .769 OPS, but the number that stands out is the 131 games he played, a number that in late May seemed unlikely.

There are still rough parts to Hays’ game. He walked just 28 times while striking out 107. His splits show that he hit .308 against left-handers and only .226 against right-handers, a number that must improve for him to continue to play regularly.

After September 1st, things got much better for Hays. He hit .284 with a .921 OPS, and he hit eight home runs and drove in 22.

An intriguing stat is that Hays hit much better when playing right field (.285 with an .814 OPS in 45 games) than left (.238 with a .724 OPS).

The 26-year-old is fun to watch in the outfield. Overall, he has a 3.2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) and a strong 1.1 Defensive WAR. He had nine outfield assists, and his only error came in on June 13th in the only complete game he played in center field—while Mullins was resting.


In 2016, Hays was drafted in the third round, behind pitchers Cody Sedlock, Keegan Akin and Mattias Dietz, who was released during the 2021 season.

A college teammate at Jacksonville University of pitcher Mike Baumann, Hays was rushed to the major leagues just 15 months after he was drafted.

In 2017, Hays hit a combined .329 with a .958 OPS with 32 home runs and 95 RBIs at High-A Frederick and Double-A Bowie. That was enough to convince Dan Duquette, Mike Elias’ predecessor as head of baseball operations, that Hays should be the first player from the 2016 draft to play in the majors.

As the Orioles slumped in September 2017, Hays hit .217 with a home run and eight RBIs in 20 games and ended up missing most of the 2018 season because of a left ankle injury that required surgery in September.

In 2019, Hays sprained a thumb sliding into second base in a spring game and was later slowed by a hamstring injury. He played 87 games at four minor league levels, including his first 57 at Triple-A.

Hays was promoted in September and hit .309 in 21 games with four home runs and 13 RBIs. The Orioles were going to send Hays to the Arizona Fall League, but he played so well in the majors, they changed their mind.

In 2020, Hays suffered a broken rib and played just 33 of the 60 games that year, but again sparkled in September, hitting .377 in 14 games.

Hays proved something important to the Orioles this year — that he could play the bulk of the season. I’m not sure that three straight strong Septembers lead to any conclusions. The first two came after shorter seasons, but the last one might be the most important.

Arizona Fall League update: Yusniel Diaz, who had a rough 2021 season at Triple-A Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, is hitting .222 with a home run and nine RBIs in seven games for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.

Infielder Greg Cullen is hitting .211 with a home run and five RBIs in seven games with Mesa. Catcher Ramón Rodriguez, who was at High-A Aberdeen, is hitting .273 in three games with an RBI.

Outfielder Kyle Stowers, who was sent home last month because of a lower-back injury, was 2-for-10 (.200) in three games.

Right-handers Connor Loeprich (0-1, 10.00 ERA in three games), Logan Gillaspie (0-1, 15.00) in three games,  and left-handers Cameron Bishop (0-0, 10.38) and Nick Vespi (2-1, 3.12)  are the pitchers sent to the Arizona Fall League by the Orioles.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. CalsPals

    November 1, 2021 at 7:34 am

    Hays has a cannon for an arm, better suited for center or right, needs to keep doing whatever he did AFTER his 2 stints on the IR, he needs to play almost every day, doesn’t seem like the fellas in the desert are having a good fall…go O’s…

  2. Orial

    November 1, 2021 at 8:18 am

    Everything points upward for Hays. All he needs is playing time,AB’s,and continued experience against big league pitching. A simple formula–just stay healthy. Not very inspiring numbers out of Arizona. Kind of wish you hadn’t posted them Rich. Stowers lower back pain. “Oh these young athletes”–will it ever end?

  3. Orioles20

    November 1, 2021 at 9:29 am

    Hays needs to play everyday. No reason he shouldn’t. He plays great defense. He showed he can hit righties in September. Put him in right field and let him play. Nobody wants to see Stewart fall over himself in the outfield.

    • Buzz1979

      November 1, 2021 at 10:22 am

      I think Stewart will be traded in a small deal over the winter. Somebody will take a flyer on him because of his one time potential!

    • HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

      November 1, 2021 at 1:03 pm

      Hays did play everyday in 2021 after returning from his 2nd stint on the injury list. Of the last 101 Orioles games, Hays played in 99. Hays hitting 0.250 against RHP and 0.327 against LHP in September 2021.

  4. Bman

    November 1, 2021 at 9:31 am

    I do really want action Hays to be a part of the next winning team. I think he will be. He has all tools, just cut down on those strikeouts and those injuries. There are a lot of potential OFs in the system now. Hays, Mullins, Santander, McKenna, Stewart, Diaz, Stowers, Neustrom, Cowser, Kjerstad, Watson, Haskin, Trimble, Rhodes to name a few.

  5. HmmmImNotSoSureAboutThat

    November 1, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    Nick Vespi who played at Bowie and Norfolk this season is also with the Mesa Solar Sox, I do believe. He is 2-1 with 3.12 ERA in 8.2 IP with 12 SO, 3 BB and a 1.154 WHIP.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 1, 2021 at 1:30 pm

      You are correct, Joe. Thank you for catching that.

  6. Raveonjo

    November 1, 2021 at 1:18 pm

    Rich, what is the rationale for sending players to the AFL as opposed to the Florida instructional league camp? Besides Diaz and Stowers, I haven’t heard of any of them.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 1, 2021 at 1:45 pm

      Bishop, Cullen and Diaz were there because they missed much of the season due to injuries. Some of the pitchers there are eligible for the Rule 5 draft, and the Orioles may want to see them face strong competition.

      • willmiranda

        November 2, 2021 at 10:43 am

        Maybe the pitchers were sent there to tank so that they won’t be picked in Rule 5. Verrrry clever!

  7. Jim Considine

    November 1, 2021 at 1:24 pm

    The AZL was a league where we sent our prospects, who may not have played enough during the regular season. This year, it looks like we sent the players who have a bad track record. It feels like this group is being auditioned for a trip to the waiver wire.

    • Rich Dubroff

      November 1, 2021 at 1:46 pm

      Jim, none of these players are eligible for waivers, but other than Diaz and Stowers not a lot of big names.

  8. dlgruber1

    November 1, 2021 at 4:24 pm

    I’m expecting the O’s outfield to be among the best in MLB next season with Mullins, Hays and Santander. I’m really expecting a big bounce back season from Santander and, and here’s that word, IF they’re all healthy I see 75-100 HRs, 250-300 RBIs and 50-60 SBs.

  9. Buzz1979

    November 1, 2021 at 5:56 pm

    Santander is the key, stay healthy!

  10. BirdsCaps

    November 1, 2021 at 11:07 pm

    The birds are having a rough time in the AZ fall league.

    • dlgruber1

      November 2, 2021 at 12:39 am

      Would that qualify as “like father, like son”?

  11. NormOs

    November 2, 2021 at 9:28 am

    I would say The O’s outfield, 1st base, catching (with Adley), and, to some extent, starters, are coming around. The weaknesses are glaring: relief pitching, except for Lopez and Wells, is non existant, of course, and 2nd, short, and 3rd is still a great problem. Those who disagree should remember……110 losses! I suggest NOT going to the waiver wire, and try something different Mr. Elias, Free Agents!! Of course, the last thing free agents are is free, so open up that O’s vault, you know, stop sitting on the money. YOU HAVE TO SPEND TO MAKE…

  12. Baltimore Castaway

    November 2, 2021 at 10:48 am

    Rich–did I read somewhere that Yusniel Diaz went down w an injury the other day in the AFL?

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