Dumpster diving is a thankless job. One often comes out empty-handed with all of the prior weeks culinary leftovers slathered about. Grey! I need a raise!! But, but, but….every once in a while a potential treasure is unearthed. Granted, potential don’t mean shit but, when you’re dumpster diving, potential is everything. As I was frolicking in the NFBC dumpsters this week, a player who could be leading off and possesses power and speed caught my eye. And he’s being drafted, on average, with the 261st overall pick in NFBC drafts from 5/1 to 7/6!!! Madness! His name? Austin Hays. Let’s dig in.
Hays is 25 years old, 6′ 1″, 195 pounds, and bats from the right side. The Orioles selected him in the third round of the 2016 MLB draft. In 2017, he tore up Single-A and Double-A to the tune of 32 combined home runs with a batting average over .300 and a strikeout rate under 16%. Woo hoo! As a result, he received 20 games worth of big league experience. As expected, he struggled, but he was young. No biggie. 2018 was marred by injury and underwhelming performance, but things picked up last season. He began in Single-A, quickly advanced through Double-A and Triple-A, then finally made The Show for another 21 game stint. This time, however, things were much different, as he clubbed 4 home runs, stole 2 bases, hit .309, and had a 9.3% walk rate with a 17.3% strikeout rate. Oh yeah!
Now, entering the 2020 season, RosterResource has Hays slotted to bat leadoff. You’ve been reading all of Grey’s 60-game season primers, so you know that batting at the top of the order is going to be huge this season. But that’s not all. Hays has speed, as in 85th percentile sprint speed, so stolen bases are in the offering. And that power. Oh, baby. That power. Fangraphs has Hays rated with a 60/60 for raw power and a 45/50 for game power.
The swing has been compared to Josh Donaldson by some and you can see the ability to get that exit velocity over 100 mph while mashing the little white ball over 400 feet from home plate.
The beauty of it all, though, is the respectable strikeout rate. Last season it was a paltry 17.3%, but Steamer has him projected for a 21.5% number. That ain’t bad, yo. The swinging strike rate was 12%, a huge improvement over the 17.9% number he exhibited during his first MLB stint back in 2017.
A potential leadoff hitter who can steal bases and park the ball over the fences at an average ADP of 261? Yes and please. TREASURE