Hyde sees Hays developing like Pollock

'That's a huge compliment' says O's outfield prospect

September 12th, 2019

BALTIMORE -- It’s been less than a week since returned to the Majors, courtesy of a surprise September callup that’s doubling as an audition for 2020 and beyond. The early returns have him running with it -- Hays notching his first three-hit game and several highlight-reel defensive plays over his first few contests.

Consider it a glimpse of what the Orioles believe their No. 6 prospect’s ceiling could be. And that it’s aligned with their rare series against the Dodgers has brought an additional layer to their evaluation.

“I was thinking during the game, I saw young, and he’s got a little A.J. Pollock in there for me,” manager Brandon Hyde said after Wednesday’s 7-3 victory. “A guy that can play center field, that can really throw, that’s athletic and can go get it in the gap. But also a tough out and a guy that can leave the ballpark on you. I think, for me, that’s a pretty good comp. I was watching both of those guys and I was thinking back to what A.J. looked like a handful of years ago.”

Whether the 24-year-old Hays ultimately fulfills that promise remains to be seen, but the skill-set comparisons seem apt. The parallels between Hays and Pollock’s career arcs are also plain to see. Both were highly drafted college players who had to overcome injuries early in their careers -- Hays battling through wrist, ankle and shoulder ailments after skyrocketing to the Majors in 2017.

When he was 22, Pollock missed nearly an entire Minor League season with a broken elbow, then big chunks of five big league seasons to elbow and hand injuries. He blossomed into an All-Star at age 27 for Arizona in 2015, his fourth year but just second full season in the Majors. Pollock signed a four-year, $55 million contract with the Dodgers last offseason, then lost six weeks to right elbow inflammation.

All told, Pollock entered play Thursday a career .279/.336/.468 hitter with 88 homers and 107 stolen bases across seven MLB seasons.

“That’s a great player to be compared to,” Hays said. “That’s a huge compliment to me.”

The challenge now for Hays is “about getting Major League at-bats and continuing to develop,” said Hyde, adding that the organization’s hope is that Hays stays here. That’s been the Orioles' goal all along with Hays, factoring into their decision to start him at Triple-A despite his torrid showing this spring.

The calculus is likely to be differnt next spring, should Hays stay healthy and continue to check off development boxes, both this month and next in the Arizona Fall League.

“You’ve got to continue to work and improve, and there’s going to be adjustments made to him,” Hyde said. “I think you saw him get on some elevated plus fastballs [Wednesday night]. Once the league sees that, he might not be getting elevated plus fastballs. He might be getting breaking balls down. So it’s just all those types of things, and learning how to be a Major League hitter.”

Down on the farm
No. 1 Orioles prospect Adley Rutschman was named the club’s Minor League Player of the Month for August, his first such honor since the organization drafted him No. 1 overall in June. Rutschman split the month between Class A Short Season Aberdeen and Class A Delmarva, earning a mid-month promotion to aid the Shorebirds’ playoff run.

Rutschman hit .254/.351/.423 with four home runs and 26 RBIs over 37 games in his first professional season, which included a five-game cameo in the Gulf Coast League. Aberdeen right-hander Kevin Magee, the organization’s eighth-round Draft pick in 2018, won Pitcher of the Month honors.

Costume vibes
There will be a gridiron theme on the Orioles’ flight Thursday afternoon to Detroit, with all members of the traveling party encouraged to wear football jerseys ahead of their four-game series against the Tigers. Hyde chose to wear a Ray Lewis jersey in an effort to “represent the home team.”

“I thought it would be appropriate to represent the Ravens,” Hyde said. “It’s something fun to do. Guys get into it. There is a lot of chatter about what jersey they got. I just want to keep things light and loose over the six-month season."

Consider it the type of camaraderie-building exercise Hyde got accustomed to working with the Cubs under Joe Maddon, who popularized the clubhouse practice while with Tampa Bay. The Orioles also dressed up like cowboys for their mid-June swing through Texas.