Recaps of the 2023 season should include mention of two Orioles who fell off the major league landscape.
Outfielder Kyle Stowers and infielder Terrin Vavra broke camp with the team. Made the Opening Day roster. Figured to be key contributors as extras coming off the bench.
Stowers was assumed to be lined up for extensive at-bats based on his prospect status and a designated hitter spot that unclogged. Put him in the outfield, use him at DH to keep his bat in the lineup.
Well, Stowers had two stints with the club, went 2-for-30 with 12 strikeouts and hasn’t played for them since May 14. He was batting .243/.370/.493 in 46 games with Triple-A Norfolk before last night, with six doubles, a triple, 10 home runs, 33 RBIs, 29 walks and 46 strikeouts in 189 plate appearances.
Right shoulder inflammation forced Stowers on the injured list May 23 and he didn’t begin an injury rehab assignment until June 29 in the Florida Complex League. He played four games with High-A Aberdeen and returned to Norfolk July 14.
Stowers went 8-for-31 this month with two doubles, a triple, two home runs, nine RBIs, a .385 on-base percentage and a .581 slugging percentage going into last night’s game in Jacksonville.
“He’s in an environment right that that’s highly competitive, and he knows that,” said director of player development Matt Blood. “He’s had some unfortunate breaks. I think a lot of it has been him coming back and getting comfortable and trying to play confidently with all the surrounding things, mostly the shoulder. Feel like he’s getting close and closer to being himself. He’s now playing regularly and he had a pretty nice week last week.”
The promotion of Stowers to the majors on Aug. 19, 2022, following his brief stint in Toronto two months earlier as a replacement player for Anthony Santander, who went on the restricted list, was greeted with the usual enthusiasm reserved for hyped prospects. Baseball America ranked him No. 7 in the system and MLB Pipeline placed him at No. 8.
Stowers batted .253/.306/.418 with four doubles, a triple, three home runs, 11 RBIs, five walks and 29 strikeouts in 34 games, and he won a job in camp this spring. He’s fallen out of view and tends to be overlooked with Colton Cowser’s arrival, the excitement of Jordan Westburg’s debut earlier this year, Heston Kjerstad’s ascension after regaining full health, and the team posting the best record in the American League.
“I think he’s in a pretty good spot going forward, meaning his head is in the right place, he still has tremendous tools,” Blood said. “He can play outfield defense well, and he can hit the ball as hard as anybody. And we feel like he’s still going to be a contributor in this organization. But whenever you’re in a highly competitive world and you’re not fully at your capability, your max capacity, it can be hard to compete with those that are. But he will in the future, whenever he's fully going, like he knows he can.”
Vavra is more of a disappearing act. Where did he go?
The Orioles liked Vavra’s versatility, his approach at the plate and the red-hot spring that got him on the roster. He batted .348/.392/.565 in 16 exhibition games and gained trust in the outfield corners and at third base.
After 27 games, the Orioles optioned Vavra while he was 12-for-49 (.245) with no extra-base hits. They sent him down on June 6 and reinstated reliever Danny Coulombe from the bereavement list.
Less than two full weeks later, Vavra landed on the seven-day injured list with a right shoulder strain. He went 9-for-21 with three extra-base hits over five games after his demotion. And then, he was gone.
Vavra is on the 40-man roster and still listed on the seven-day IL.
“He’s in Florida. He’s just now starting to throw and swing again, so he’s still a little ways off in terms of being healthy enough to play,” Blood said. “He’s not going to be in games for a little while.”
The Orioles believe that Vavra can get back in Norfolk’s lineup before the season runs out in late September.
Perhaps rejoining Stowers if the young outfielder can’t make it back to Baltimore in 2023.
“We’re now in a place where you’ve got an organization full of talented, competitive players,” and sometimes these setbacks happen,” Blood said.
“It seems like they get forgotten, but they’re definitely not. We’re working hard to get them back to full capacity because we want them to make an impact.”