The Orioles have added some left-handed batters on minor league deals in recent days. But the search for a quality lefty bat to place somewhere in the lineup may well still be ongoing.
But is a potent lefty bat already on the roster looking for more playing time? And is Kyle Stowers that bat?
Yes, to the first question and I think yes to the second also.
O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias talked at the Winter Meetings about being careful not to make acquisitions that block prospects. Stowers already is partially blocked on the roster with Austin Hays in left, Cedric Mullins in center and Anthony Santander in right. Colton Cowser is another outfield prospect charging toward Baltimore. The DH spot is open, but he might already be a bit squeezed in outfield at-bats.
But Stowers, who hit one of the most dramatic homers of the 2022 season, has big-time power, cut down on his strikeouts on the farm last year and features a decent glove with a plus arm. He’s big and strong, was the O’s co-Minor League Player of the Year with Adley Rutschman in 2021 and will turn 25 on Jan. 2.
There is a lot to like here. Now he just needs to find regular at-bats to show what he can do.
Until mid-August last summer he spent most of his ’22 season at Triple-A Norfolk. In 95 games, he batted .264/.357/.527/.884 with 29 doubles, 19 homers and 78 RBIs. Among O’s minor league regulars, he ranked third in OPS and RBIs, tied for third in home runs and fourth in doubles. He produced an 11.1 walk rate on the farm and reduced a high strikeout rate to a much more respectable 25.6.
He is ranked as the club’s No. 9 prospect by Baseball America, which puts a 65 grade on his power and 60 on his arm.
He produced some loud contact during his 98 major league plate appearances with an average exit velocity of 91.1 mph while the league average was 88.1. His hard-hit rate of 50.0 topped the average of 38.5.
In 34 Orioles games, Stowers hit .253/.306/.418/.724, which produced an OPS+ of 104, just over league average. He hit three homers and drove in 11 runs, while his major league walk rate was 5.1 with a 29.6 strikeout rate.
Stowers made his big league debut June 13 at Toronto and hit an RBI double in the seventh inning off Julian Merryweather for his first hit and RBI. In his final 28 big league games, he batted .282/.338/.479 (20-for-71) with three doubles, one triple, three homers, 10 runs, eight RBIs and five walks from Aug. 25 on.
His first career homer came on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the last of the ninth inning off of Liam Hendriks of the White Sox on Aug. 25. The Orioles were down to their last strike, but Stowers’ blast tied the game 3-3 and they won it 4-3 in 11 innings. Hendriks would finish with 37 saves and allowed just seven homers. Stowers became the fourth Oriole to have his first career home run be a game-tying homer in the ninth inning or later and first since Rich Coggins in 1973, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
Stowers power is indeed a real thing.
With a career minor league OPS of .847 and 52 farm homers in 1,002 at-bats, is Stowers the big bat the O’s are looking for? This year will he get enough at-bats to show he can be that player?