Ortiz shows he is more than a glove-first prospect, plus other Birdland Caravan notes

Orioles infield prospect Joey Ortiz, who made his major league debut in the 2023 season, may have finally shed that “glove-first” label. While his glove is still strong and he gets 70 fielding grades and 55 for arm strength by Baseball America, he also produced an .885 OPS in 88 games at Triple-A Norfolk last summer.

“Yeah, definitely, I feel like my whole career I’ve been labeled as glove first,” Ortiz said Friday at the Warehouse during Birdland Carvan. “Now for my bat to finally come through is nice. Been a lot of work, trusting in the coaches and what they are helping me with and me believing in myself as well.”

Ortiz hit .212 in 34 plate appearances over three stints with the Orioles. A true shortstop who has also played some second and third base, he said he’s up for it if the club needs him in a utility role this coming season.

He put up a batting line of .321/.378/.507/.885 for the Tides with 30 doubles, four triples, nine homers and 58 RBIs.

Rated as the No. 95 prospect in the 2023 debut of the Baseball America top 100, he is now the O’s No. 7 prospect. They have six players in the new top 100, so Ortiz just missed making the list.

With the Orioles possibly in the market for a starting pitcher and with numerous prospects to deal, Ortiz was asked about being one of those prospects whose name may be coming up in trade discussions.

“I try not to listen to it too much," he said. "I just go about my business, do what I have to do. Kind of let things handle themselves. If another team wants you, it’s always flattering. But I’m with the Orioles right now, so I have to plan on being here."

Westburg said he needs to earn his spot: While No. 1 prospect Jackson Holliday could make the O's roster in April after playing just 22 Triple-A games, including four in the playoffs, versatile infielder Jordan Westburg had a longer stay with the Tides.

Before he got the call to the majors on June 26, Westburg played in 158 games at the Triple-A level and 77 with Double-A Bowie. He was the opposite of rushed.

After he got to the majors in June, he stayed there through the rest of the year, hitting .260/.311/.404/.715 in 68 games for the Birds with 54 starts. He produced an OPS+ of exactly league average at 100. And after having to really earn his way on to the Baltimore roster, he goes into spring expecting to have to win a job again and not thinking he has one.

“I do, one hundred percent (have to win a spot)," he said Friday. "I don’t think I’ve solidified anything in my role. I’d love to win a job and be the starting second baseman, third baseman, whatever. I don’t care where I play. But I realize this team’s dynamic is one of versatility where we have a lot of athletic guys that can do a lot of different things. So I’m going to show up this spring and try to win a job. Fight really hard and do the whole iron sharpens iron thing.”

Westburg sized up his time last season with the Orioles in terms of where improvement is needed.

"Defensively at third base, I need some work," he said. "Would like to clean up some of my actions over there. In the box, I felt I was really inconsistent. Felt like I kept my head above water when I was up here and never felt lost. But I did think that, you know, I accomplished some things at Triple-A that I didn't really replicate here in the big leagues. I'm being hard on myself with that, but I do want to clean it up and be the best baseball player I can be," he said.

Hyde's message to the team: When he gathered his players last spring in Sarasota, Fla., manager Brandon Hyde reminded them they didn't seem to garnering much respect after winning 83 games. What will the message be in camp this year?

“Well, you know, not to dive too deep into it, but the season didn’t end the way we wanted it to," said Hyde. "Last year was last year and this is a totally new season and we are putting it behind us, honestly. We want to feel good about last year in a lot of ways – the growth that we made and getting a taste of the postseason for the first time for our young players was a valuable experience. But last year was last year and we are moving onto next year."

Another list, another No. 1 ranking for Holliday: As they did in the new Baseball America top 100 recently, the Orioles placed six players in the new MLBPipeline.com top 100 list released via a live MLB Network telecast last night. And Jackson Holliday is still the No. 1 prospect in baseball, which was expected.

But while the O's had four of the top 34 players in the Baseball America list and six of the top 93, they placed five in the top 32 and six in the top 63 this time:

1 - Jackson Holliday
17 - Samuel Basallo
19 - Colton Cowser
30 - Coby Mayo
32 - Heston Kjerstad
63 - Joey Ortiz

Basallo, who was No. 46 via MLB Pipeline when the 2023 season ended, moves up 29 spots.

In noting that few players ever play four different levels in one season as Holliday did last year, getting to Triple-A to end the season, MLB Pipeline's Jim Callis had huge praise for the 20-year-old Holliday.

“The only guy I can think of like that (four levels, one year) is A-Rod, who went to the big leagues his first full pro season," said Callis. "And A-Rod is the best prospect I’ve ever seen in 30-plus years doing this. Jackson Holliday can be in that conversation."

Holliday was interviewed on MLB Network about his latest No. 1 ranking: "It's a really cool experience for me. To be able to share that with Adley (Rutschman) and Gunnar (Henderson). It's really, really neat to be a part of and an honor to be a No. 1 prospect among a whole lot of really talented minor league players."

Added MLB Network analyst Dan O'Dowd: "I think he said it well. He knows he has elite bat-to-ball skills. I think it's probably the best bat-to-ball skills that exist in our game today."

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