08 August 2017

Who Hits Like Hays?

Austin Hays has been on a tear this year. Actually, he has been on a tear for abut a year and a half.  When drafted, the common refrain was that he did basically everything average.  Hitting, power, running, fielding, arm...all average.  That is why he lasted to the third round.  Hays had no obvious tool that could drive his way through the minors and his collegiate career was not against the highest of competition.

So, the Orioles drafted him and he went on the aforementioned tear.  Hays has shown a great approach at the plate, which seems to play up his contact ability.  He also is a bit aggressive, but his contact rate is high enough that he does not strike out all that much, but rather produces weak contact on pitches he probably should be taking.  That has not been a detriment at low A, high A, or AA, but it may be more troublesome in the Majors if his ability peg him as a sub-.270 hitter as opposed to his consistent .330 performance in the minors.

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Generated 8/4/2017.

Last week, a reader asked for me to do some similarity scoring for batted ball profiles.  The reader noted that Jonathan Schoop's profile looked awfully similar to Austin Hay's.  When one looks at batted ball profiles for Major Leaguers while including only the stat line available for Minor Leaguers as well, you wind up comparing ground balls, line drives, and fly balls as well as whether the batter pulled the ball, went to center, or to the opposite field.  These similarities only consider that.  They do not consider how many walks or strikeouts a batter has or even the quality of the contact.  They simply look at effectively the launch angle and direction.

Austin Hays this  year has been a strong pull hitter with over 50% of his batted balls going to left field.  He also is a pretty even fly ball / ground ball with a tendency to hit line drives more than his peers. Below are the results for Austin Hays in comparison to batted ball profiles for players during the 2016 season in the Majors (top and bottom 5% comps):

Name Total
Gregory Polanco 34
Asdrubal Cabrera 37
Josh Donaldson 59
Carlos Beltran 60
Alex Gordon 66
Edwin Encarnacion 71
Victor Martinez 71
Jason Kipnis 73
----- -----
Ian Desmond 209
Jean Segura 209
Adam Eaton 214
Jonathan Villar 214
Eric Hosmer 215
Yunel Escobar 218
Joe Mauer 223
DJ LeMahieu 270
Howie Kendrick 284

Polanco is the batted ball profile that immediately comes to my mind for Hays.  I think a major difference between the two has been the amount of power shown this season for the 22 yo Hays (~.260 ISO) and what Polanco managed at age 21 at the same level (~.150).  The second difference is Hays' poor ability to walk while Polanco was able to bring in league average walking ability.

Power tends to have more staying than walks in the minors, but the two players do seem to be in the same orbit.  Asdrubal Cabrera also had a similar profile at that age and actually looked a great deal more like Polanco.  He too had an ISO around .150 and an average walk rate.  Similar to Polanco, Cabrera retained a decent walk rate to balance out a batting average that collapsed from a .300 minors hitter to a .265 majors hitter.  On the bottom end are all players with extreme groundball rates and a tendency to usually hit the ball to center or to the opposite field.

Again, for emphasis, the similarities are simply who at the MLB level has the most similar or least similar batted ball profiles.  It does not consider any other aspect of hitting.  It should also be known that hitting mechanics can be altered significantly upon reaching the majors.  That said, usually it does not.  As long as Hays keeping making contact, he will be hitting the ball similarly to a group of rather solid talent.


Anonymous said...

You know, there are a lot of potential positives with this team if they keep it together. Next year they could put up Mancini, Jones, and Hays in the OF - Davis, Schoop, Beckham, and Machado in the IF - Joseph and Sisco at C - Givens, O'Day, Brach, Britton even Hart and Bleier in the bullpen - Gausman, Bundy, Hellickson (and even a cheap Tillman) as SP and be basically one or two good SPs away from a really good team.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, and Trumbo at DH.

Jon Shepherd said...

That group could also deliver a pretty awful team too. Machado is probably the only one there where you could confidant ly hang a hat. I think there is a decent base there, so there are a lot of breakdown candidates.

BD said...

If Austin Hays is a good comp to Schoop look at what Schoop did his first year in MLB (2013). .244 OBP. Expecting rookies to come to the rescue next year is setting yourself up for disappointment.

BD said...

Meant 2014. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

Jon, any group could deliver pretty awful results. No baseball team is set in stone for the results they deliver. This year's Cubs are a good example - last year a "great" team; this year "good" but not great. But the team above, if one could afford it, would not be a failure on paper. If all of those players deliver their own average results, then it's younger and cheaper than the current team (with the exception of Machado requiring a big contract). And who knows who else might be coming up too - Mullins, Stewart, Marin, etc....

btwrestler119 said...

Hays doesn't really have close comps, because the kind of power he's showing without many walks or strikeouts is very uncommon in the minors. Mike Moustakas and Nolan Arenado both had similar profiles at similar ages in AA, those are the best current comps, Polanco showed much more patience and much less pop than Hays in the minors.

Jon Shepherd said...

Personally, what I find interesting about Hays is that there is no difference between his batting practice power and game power. He is letting it all show. Which, maybe, might be an issue with respect for room for growth.

Roger - The point I was making was that this team is particularly iffy. This is not about setting anything in stone, but rather looking at backgrounds and historical comps. Next year's Orioles team could be good, but that is something that could be said about a lot of teams and at that point if we are parsing it like that then commentary about potential greatness or goodness becomes somewhat pointless.

Pip said...

Jon, I would really like to see a look at Dans choices/successes regarding position players vs pitchers.
Dan has-it seems-a pretty dreadful record regarding acquiring,keeping, and dumping pitchers, but his work with position players seems to be a bit better despite the Snider/Parra fiascos.
Certainly Hays and Mullins seem to be coming right along, and Mancini is doing splendidly.
An in-depth look would be most welcome.

Unknown said...

Gotta love the Orioles fan's pessimism. *CoughcamdenchatCough*. Struggle or meh in the minors and we call him a fringe prospect. Balls out kick ass in the minors and all of a sudden we think the prospect has peaked in AA. Maybe this is the reason why the O's have been losers for so long...a negative attitude can pervade into a culture be it the organization or fanbase or both.

Anonymous said...

Jon, agree. Just saying that there is potential out there. The O's next year and following years are not a lost cause. It does seem like, without some extraordinary luck with SP, the O's may be one of those average but competitive teams. The Beckham pick-up is very illustrative - filling that Hardy hole before it becomes a real hole. Hays solves a very definite OF problem, if he pans out. An OF of Hays, Jones, and Mancini with Trumbo as DH might end up being pretty imposing.