By Contributing Writer: Chuck Boemmel Jr.
In order to fulfill his draft potential, Frederick Keys (Class-A Low) outfielder Josh Hart needs to stay on the field in 2018. The 23 year old Hart suffered through an injury plagued 2017 season and as a result played the equivalent of one month’s worth of games.
Photo: Baby Birdland
Hart made three trips to the disabled list this past season, the first occurring after the Keys’ opening series of the year. Suffering both a left ankle injury and a facial contusion, he did not appear in a game for the Keys after June 1st.
He was able to play in 25 of the Keys’ 139 games, however, and produced a slash line of .263/ .330/ .413 in 80 at bats. Hart connected for 21 hits, 10 of which were for extra bases, scored 9 runs and knocked in 7; he was 2 for 3 in stolen base attempts as well. Countering the robust extra base hit rate (48%) was a high strikeout rate (24/80, 30%) albeit in a small sample size.
Hart did return to baseball action in August when he spent rehab assignments with the Gulf Coast Orioles (Class-Rookie) and the Aberdeen Ironbirds (Class-A Short) for 6 and 7 games respectively. In those 13 games he slashed a combined .283/ .346/ .435 with 6 RBI, 9 runs scored and 5 extra base hits in 46 at bats; he was also 2 for 3 again in stolen base attempts. Another bright spot was a reduced strike out rate of 13% (6/46).
The Baltimore Orioles drafted Hart in 2013 in the Competitive Balance Round. He was the team’s second pick that year and the 37th player chosen overall. Ironically, he was selected ahead of Chance Sisco. Hart was a highly touted high school outfielder and was projected by scouts as a Ben Revere or Denard Span type of player when drafted. He played for the prestigious Parkview High School in Liburn Georgia and was a member of that school’s four consecutive regional championship teams. Hart chose to sign a professional contract over his commitment to Georgia Tech.
A stellar prep resume and a high draft selection obviously lead to high expectations. Sadly injuries have prevented Hart from meeting those expectations. He has had at least one stint on the disabled list every year (2014-2017) since being drafted. In fact, only in 2015 was Hart able to play more than 100 games in a season. That year at Frederick he played 104 games and slashed .255/ .282/ .311 with 28 RBI and 43 runs scored.
The 2018 season will be Hart’s fifth full season with the organization and hopefully can be an injury-free one. He needs to show the Orioles that he is the player they thought he was when they drafted him and join fellow first round pick Hunter Harvey on the road to Birdland. A good year will be crucial for Hart’s movement up the organizational ladder and I for one, hope all Orioles fans get to see it happen.