Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias has said the Orioles' current top 10 prospects list is about as good as any he’s ever seen. That is high praise since he was involved with Houston’s rise to the top of big league baseball and they had some pretty strong young talent there too.
Today I am taking a look at and providing a brief comment on each player on Baseball America's list of the Orioles' top 10 prospects.
These are all names that should be well-known to most Orioles fans by now. Three have already seen the majors.
The Orioles pulled off a rare feat last season when they had two different players ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball by Baseball America: catcher Adley Rutschman and later infielder Gunnar Henderson.
No. 1 – IF Gunnar Henderson: There is plenty to like here, and Henderson will likely begin next year as Baseball America’s No. 1 prospect, as he is today. I mean, what is going to change between now and then? Henderson’s stay at the top, though, will end when he gets just 15 more big league at-bats and thus will no longer be “prospect-eligible,” as they say. However - and this will, no doubt, confuse some - he will still be eligible to win the 2023 AL Rookie of the Year Award.
Baseball America gives Henderson 60 grades for hit tool, power and arm, and some scouts put higher even grades on his arm. He has plus tools across the board, and we saw what he could do in his brief major league time late last year. He was Baseball America’s 2022 Minor League Player of the Year. Then had an OPS+ of 123 in 34 major league games. Maybe the best stat here: He will play about half of next season while still just 21 years old.
No. 2 – RHP Grayson Rodriguez: The wait for his major league debut is about over. It should come early next year, and at this point there is very little keeping him off the big league roster. Later, we find out how many innings he will be allowed to throw after the lat issue that limited him to 75 2/3 last year on the farm. But they were some pretty strong, sometimes spectacular innings. The ceiling is high here, and soon we get to find out if this young talent can reach it.
No. 3 – SS Jackson Holliday: What a debut season for this 18-year-old after the Orioles selected him No. 1 overall last summer, their third-ever top draft pick. He showed all that led him to become the No. 1 pick in 20 minor league games, posting a .911 OPS with 25 walks and just 10 strikeouts. The tools are loud, the talent is vast, the makeup is great. It all led MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis to tell me, “I will be absolutely surprised if Jackson Holliday is not a superstar.”
No. 4 – OF Colton Cowser: Like Henderson and Holliday, Cowser has strong tools across the board and can impact games with his bat, speed, glove and arm. It’s a nice package here, and Cowser should make his major league debut during the 2023 season. He’s another top 100 talent that played at three levels last season, starting at High-A Aberdeen. He ended up with 27 games and an OPS of .768 at Triple-A. One aspect of Cowser’s makeup I love is how relaxed he is. He is confident, not cocky, and his chill attitude will serve him well going forward, no doubt.
No. 5 – LHP DL Hall: The flamethrowing lefty got to the majors last year. Baseball America puts a 70 grade on his fastball, which can touch 100 mph. Another plus for Hall is that his secondaries have all shown the ability to be plus pitches. On a given day he could have a dominant changeup, and next time out a dominant slider. Nice to have choices. As always, the command and control will determine how far he can go. When he’s got it all going and can command it, it’s a sight to behold, and I have seen it. For now, I think they’ve got to max out efforts to use him as a starter having three or four plus pitches.
No. 6 – IF Jordan Westburg: He is also now in the back end of top 100 lists and is currently Baseball America’s No. 89 prospect. He has earned that with a combination of smarts, offense and defense and an attitude that is relaxed, but in a way that's different from that of the more outgoing Cowser. But Westburg’s 2022 production was big and he was named the club’s Brooks Robinson Award winner as the Orioles Minor League Player of the Year.
Westburg spent time between Double-A and Triple-A last season and batted .265/.355/.496/.851 with 39 doubles, three triples, 27 homers, 96 runs scored, 106 RBIs, 70 walks and 12 stolen bases in 138 games. His major league debut is close and, depending on other moves this winter, he could go to spring training looking to win a starting infield job.
No. 7 – IF Connor Norby: Is he the future second baseman for the Orioles? Norby’s stock took a leap this year when he led the organization with 29 homers. And his .886 OPS was second to Henderson's among all farm players with 250 or more plate appearances. He played at three levels this year, and his homer rate got better as he moved up. He even hit four in the last nine games after joining Triple-A Norfolk. Baseball America grades his defense average but his arm a tick below with a 45 grade.
No. 8 – IF Joey Ortiz: This slick-fielding shortstop was added to the 40-man roster in November. He adds to the O’s growing infield depth at higher levels of their farm system. In 2022 he had the offense to match the strong D. His fielding got a 60 grade from Baseball America, and the arm a 55. As for his bat, between 111 games at Bowie and 26 at Norfolk, he hit .284/.349/.477/.826 and played top-notch defense at shortstop. He produced 35 doubles, six triples, 19 homers and 85 RBIs while scoring 91 runs. In his Triple-A games only, he hit .346/.400/.567 with seven doubles, two triples, four home runs, 14 RBIs and nine walks.
No. 9 – OF Kyle Stowers: Stowers and his power this year made it to Camden Yards, where he hit that homer with two outs in the ninth on an 0-2 pitch against Liam Hendriks. It helped the Orioles tie the White Sox in that late August game, which Baltimore won in 11 innings. We recently wrote about him here, wondering if he is the lefty bat the club is said to be looking for. He produced a 104 OPS+ with the Orioles after producing a .527 slugging percentage and .884 OPS at Triple-A in 95 games. He’s a decent defender with a strong arm and adds to Baltimore’s outfield depth.
No. 10 IF Coby Mayo: Mayo got to Double-A this year at age 20 and will play all of next season at age 21. He has shown glimpses both of his 60-grade power and arm on the Baltimore farm. He produced a .782 OPS in 104 games last year with a few injury issues limiting him. This next season will be big for him to establish himself at the Double-A level and remind everyone not to overlook him when they ponder the growing infield depth in the O’s organization.