The Baltimore Orioles farm system has been less than impressive over the past few years, but a number of big-name prospects are looking to change that ahead of the 2018 baseball season.
The Baltimore Orioles farm system is recovering from years of irrelevance largely thanks to flourishing prospects Austin Hays and Ryan Mountcastle. Both are featured on MLB.com’s 2018 Prospect Watch, with Hays ranking No. 23 and Mountcastle ranking No. 98 among MLB prospects.
Along with Hays and Mountcastle, several other lesser-name prospects contribute to a pipeline of potential talent within the Baltimore Orioles organization. In a division that features financial powerhouses like the Yankees and Red Sox, developing players and solving problems internally will prove vital to the Orioles’ success moving forward.
The Baltimore Orioles could lose a number of big-name players after this season, including Manny Machado, Zach Britton, and Adam Jones. Filling these positional gaps via free agency seems like the perfect plan, but it may be unrealistic in the Orioles’ case.
A small-market team like the Baltimore Orioles, as unfortunate as it may be for Orioles fans, will never be able to compete in free agency the way other, larger-market teams can. This makes the need for a strong pipeline of prospects even more apparent.
Austin Hays, OF (22 years old)
Hays slashed a .330 batting average with the Double-A Bowie Baysox last season before skipping the Triple-A level entirely and joining the Orioles’ major league roster. In 63 plate appearances, Hays reached base roughly 24 percent of the time and crushed his first major league homer in the process.
Having used the end of last season to adjust to the majors, prospect watchdogs have high hopes for Hays’s development over the course of the 2018 season.
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Hays has also been consistently praised for his defensive skills. MLB.com says Hays has an “accurate, plus arm” while his versatility in the outfield makes him a true defensive asset. The emerging major leaguer can play both center and right fields which could limit the need for players like Chris Davis to fill the gap in the outfield down the road.
One of Hays’s more unique qualities is his upbeat, confident mindset. His Twitter account is bursting with positivity and appreciation for the Baltimore Orioles, the team’s fans, and the game of baseball. The boost of spirit that Hays sports may be just what the Orioles need to compete in a grueling AL East this season.
Hays is an excellent candidate to land an early spot in the Orioles’ lineup for the duration of the 2018 season. His above-average speed and tendency to bat above .300 make him an attractive option to precede the team’s base-clearing power hitters, such as Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis.
But in true Baltimore Orioles fashion, Hays also knows how to hit the ball out of the yard, as he accumulated a combined 33 homers in 2017 during stints in Advanced-A Frederick, Double-A Bowie, and Baltimore.