Orioles infield prospect Jordan Wesburg is looking forward to the baseball offseason. For him it will include his wedding in December and more work toward making his major league debut.
While it didn’t come this year, it figures to be a near certainty for the 2023 season. Westburg is the O’s No. 5 ranked prospect via MLBPipeline.com on the club’s top 30 list and is now No. 76 on their national top 100. He is the O’s No. 6 prospect on the Baseball America list and No. 89 on the BA top 100.
After a big year that included 47 games at Double-A Bowie and 91 at Triple-A Norfolk, Westburg was named the Orioles' Minor League Player of the Year, winning the Brooks Robinson award. He was at Camden Yards yesterday and hopes to make that ballpark home soon.
“I feel like you are one step away when you get to Triple-A," he said. "You are one injury away, one whatever away. It’s really cool to have that realization. But there are still things that I would like work on. Still things I need to accomplish. Obviously I didn’t make it up here this year. And that says that we were winning here with the big league club and I wasn’t needed, but there are things I need to address so that next year in spring training I can have a shot.
“I’d like to continue to be more consistent. Continue to polish up the hit tool. There are flashes of things clicking together and also flashes of going into slumps and a little bit up and down. So, if I can can smooth those things out, it gives me a better chance to play up here. Everything is amplified and a bit harder on the biggest stage.”
Westburg now has plenty of players that were his teammates at Norfolk and on the farm, that are playing for the Orioles. They can certainly show him the ropes when he gets his call and tell him what to expect. He’s already sought them out about it.
“They are just saying, ‘Be yourself. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.’ You wouldn’t be in the big leagues if you weren’t good enough to be there. So the more you can trust yourself when you get up there the better you’ll be. That’s kind of the message I’ve heard from guys like (Kyle) Stowers, Adley (Rutschman), Terrin (Vavra), Gunnar (Henderson).”
Westburg filled up the stat sheet this year for the Baysox and Tides. He batted .265/.355/.496 with 39 doubles, three triples, 27 homers, 96 runs scored, 106 RBIs, 70 walks and 12 stolen bases in 138 games. He led Orioles minor leaguers in doubles, extra-base hits (69), total bases (270) and RBIs.
Was there one area of his game he wanted to improve this year and did he do that?
“It is always fun hitting more homers. I did that this year which is pretty cool to see. Cool just for me to see there was that power I maybe hadn’t tapped into in my career and for it to come out the way it did this year was fun,” he said.
Right-hander Ryan Watson was at Oriole Park yesterday as well and he was recently named the Orioles Minor League Pitcher of the Year, winning the Jim Palmer award. Between Double-A and Triple-A, he went 7-5 with one save and a 3.44 ERA. Over 107 1/3 innings, he gave up 89 hits and 16 home runs with 29 walks, and 108 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .223 average in 27 games (18 starts). He finished fourth in the organization in innings pitched, and his ERA ranked second among O’s minor leaguers with at least 80 innings pitched.
“I just tried to control what I could control and give the team a chance to win every time I went out there. At the end of the day, this award was the result of that. All I ever wanted to do is help my team win ballgames," Watson said.
“I think I sharpened things up a lot more (this year) and I think I commanded the fastball a lot better which allowed my offspeed to kind of develop a lot more as well.”
And while Watson, who was signed after the 2020 five-round draft out of Auburn, gets a ton of credit for his season, he passed some on to his coaches and the O’s pitching development program.
“Starting in Double-A with (pitching coach) Josh Conway, he helped me a lot,” Watson said. "Not only this season but I had him in high-A as well last year and we were really close. He helped not only with the pitching side, but the mental side. Staying composed, keeping the right mentality toward pitching. There are a lot of good coaches in this system to develop talent to get to Camden Yards.”
Watson said there is plenty of talent on the farm still on the way to Baltimore.
“There are a lot of exciting things on the way. The No. 1 ranked farm system in baseball. Lot of talent in this system. Joey Ortiz is one guy that stands out – his glove is unreal. Up and down this farm system, there are guys that can help this team win. We’ve got an overwhelming amount of talent for sure. An exciting time to be a fan and to be an Oriole for sure.”
Orioles director of player development Matt Blood talked about what led both Westburg and Watson to their awards.
“It’s really difficult to standout in this org, a lot of really good players,” said Blood. “So, choosing this was not easy. We felt like with Ryan, his development from last year to this year and his performance in Double-A is really what won him this. The amount of strikeouts there and the low walks and he just dominated Double-A in his second professional season. And the development he showed, he really improved his slider and his fastball velocity and came out and threw over 100 innings. That was really impressive.
“From Jordan’s perspective, he’s developed every step of the way and he can do it all. The defense, the hitting, he’s also a phenomenal leader. He performed well and then the league adjusted to him and he had some struggles and he readjustment to them. That is really what the minor leagues is all about is going through these times of struggles and making adjustments to where you will be ready for the next challenge. That is what he showed us on offense and on defense he’s just been getting steadily better and better and better and can play really anywhere on the field. For this team that is going to be really valuable.
"And we just felt like in our organization, this was the time to recognize him."