The first player from the 2016 Draft to reach the Majors, Hays found himself back in the big leagues in September 2019 after a two-year hiatus due to various injuries. It looks like he is there to stay after packing several spectacular catches and a .309/.373/.574 slash line into a 21-game sample. That production was more in line with the 32-homer, 32-double breakout year he put up in Double-A in 2017, before his numbers dipped at Bowie and Triple-A the next two years. During that time, Hays missed significant time to shoulder, ankle, thumb and hamstring maladies.
While his offensive tools aren’t as advanced as his glove, Hays is believed to have the physical strength, bat speed and barrel control to hit at least enough to be an everyday player in the Majors. He could show average power at the highest level, especially if he refines an aggressive approach that’s resulted in him expanding the zone too much at times. Hays makes a lot of contact but doesn’t walk much, and is at his best when he employs an all-fields gap-to-gap approach rather than sell out for pull-side power.
Though he still probably profiles best at one of the corner outfield spots, the prowess Hays showed in center field last season has altered those projections somewhat. He ranked as an above-average center fielder in the Majors last season, where he also showcased a plus arm, strong route-running ability and 85th percentile sprint speed. If he reaches his offensive potential, Hays could be an All-Star in the big leagues.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
After transferring from Seminole State (Fla.) JC to Jacksonville, Hays erupted to hit an Atlantic Sun Conference-best 16 home runs as a junior, leading to his selection in the third round of the 2016 Draft. He became the first player from his class to reach the Majors the next year, earning a September promotion straight from Double-A after he'd produced a .329 average with 32 homers and 32 doubles across two levels. In 2018, Hays was limited by a sore shoulder during the spring and then lost nearly two months of the season to a stress fracture in his ankle that ultimately required offseason surgery. The injury bug continued to plague Hays in 2019, as suffered a thumb injury during Spring Training that delayed the start of his season and also missed time with a hamstring strain in June.
Hays showed during his first full season that he has the physical strength, bat speed and barrel control needed to hit for average and power at the highest level. While injuries robbed him of some of that explosiveness in 2018, Hays also deviated from the hit-to-all-fields mentality that had made him successful in the previous year, as he all too often sold out for pull-side power in an attempt to replicate his 2017 results. He generally has an aggressive approach that leads to a lot of contact but nets him few walks, thus underscoring how Hays' on-base skills are linked to his production.
Hays has played all three outfield positions as a pro, but profiles best in right field because he has average speed and range as well as plus arm strength. He will need to hit for average and power to hold down the position in the big leagues, and the Orioles are confident that a fully healthy Hays will be able to get back on track toward reaching his potential in 2019.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 55 | Run: 50 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 50
Hays began his college career at Seminole State (Fla.) JC before transferring to Jacksonville and leading the Atlantic Sun Conference in home runs (16) as a junior in 2016. The Orioles made him their third-round pick that June, and Hays immediately rewarded the club with a strong pro debut. That success followed Hays into his first full season, as he erupted to hit .329 with 32 home runs and 32 doubles between Class A Advanced Frederick and Double-A Bowie, and then became the first player from his Draft class to reach the Majors when the Orioles called him up in September. Facing high expectations in 2018, Hays was limited by shoulder injury during Spring Training and struggled to find his swing back in Double-A before landing on the disabled list with an ankle injury in May.
Hays features a short but explosive swing, combining bat speed with natural feel for the barrel to generate hard contact to all fields, with easy, plus raw power to his pull side. He can handle velocity fine and has a knack for punishing mistakes, though an aggressive approach does make him vulnerable to quality secondary offerings. That should improve with experience, giving Hays the potential for an above-average bat with similar, if not better power in his prime.
Hays spent much of 2017 in center field before reaching the Majors, where he logged more time in right (14 games) than center (eight). His speed and range, both slightly above average, make him a quality defender at both positions, while his accurate, plus arm is a natural fit in right. Revered by club officials for his "grinder" mentality and all-out playing style, Hays is on the fast track to becoming an impact, everyday player at the highest level.
Scouting grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 55
Hays starred as a freshman at Seminole State (Fla.) before transferring to Jacksonville, where he had a so-so campaign in 2015. He got back on track the following year as he paced the Atlantic Sun Conference in home runs (16), and the Orioles made him their third-round pick in June. Hays continued to rake in his pro debut, hitting .336 with a team-high four homers in the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League, and he emerged as one of the Minors' top breakout prospects in 2017 while reaching Double-A.
Hays makes the ball jump off his bat with above-average bat speed and a short, handsy swing from the right side of the plate. Hays doesn't waste a lot of motion and has shown the ability to drive the ball across the whole field. Scouts believe he'll develop into an above-average hitter with similar power, and he's shown plenty of over-the-fence thump across two levels in his first full season.
Defensively, Hays has spent much of his time in center field this season after manning right primarily in his pro debut. His plus arm profiles anywhere in the outfield, and overall he's a very capable defender with above-average speed. Having done nothing but surpass expectations since singing, Hays, with his impressive tools and feel for the game, seemingly is on the fast track to becoming at least an average everyday player in the big leagues, if not more.
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 45 | Arm: 60 | Field: 50 | Overall: 45
A transfer from Seminole State (Fla.), Hays had a so-so debut campaign for Jacksonville in 2015. But he really put himself on the map in 2016, showing the kind of offensive profile that could fit well in an outfield corner at the next level, and the Orioles made him their third-round pick in June.
The right-handed-hitting Floridian uses a short and handsy swing to consistently make the ball jump off his bat. Hays doesn't waste a lot of motion and has shown both the ability to hit for average and power, albeit it in a weaker conference. It might be more gap pop at the next level, although Hays has shown some over-the-fence ability in the past. Defensively, his plus arm also profiles well in right field, where he is a very capable defender.
Hays possesses the tools to be an everyday corner outfielder. At worst, he could be a very productive fourth outfielder at the big league level.