Can the Baltimore Orioles Make Room for All Their Top Prospects?

The Baltimore Orioles top prospects have been incredible this spring. Can they all find their way into the starting lineup?

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Jackson Holliday #87 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a double in the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during a 2024 Grapefruit League Spring Training game at BayCare Ballpark on March 05, 2024 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

We are a little over half way through spring training with opening day for the Baltimore Orioles now less than two weeks away. Thus far, the Orioles top prospects have done nothing but perform beyond their expectations. This puts the Orioles in a precarious situation as they are now faced with having to decide who makes the team.

Entering camp the biggest name in contention to make the opening day roster was Just Baseball’s top prospect Jackson Holliday. All eyes were on him entering spring training and he has managed to perform up to expectations.

While Holliday looks like he will make the opening day roster, the Orioles have also had a lot of their other prospects really step up this spring.

Colton Cowser has been a name that has garnered a lot of attention. Heston Kjerstad is not being talked about much but he debuted last season and found success. Kyle Stowers, Coby Mayo, and Connor Norby have all also made their presence known this spring.

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Who exactly are these prospects and where do they fit?

Who are these Prospects?

Obviously, I just listed all of the prospects. When asking who they are I want to dive a little deeper into the cases that they have made for themselves.

Jackson Holliday (JBB #1) – Holliday as previously stated is the big one. He is the number one overall prospect across many rankings including our own. The then 19-year-old climbed four levels of the minors last season finishing in Triple-A. He was very productive offensively at all four stops, walking a lot and limiting strikeouts to around 20%. This spring he has an OPS of .957 with two doubles, two triples, and a home run. He looks like a lock for opening day!

Heston Kjerstad (JBB #31) – Kjerstad came into this spring as a lock to make the roster. That is looking like less of a certainty with Colton Cowser’s emergence. He made his debut in September last season and was productive with a 104 wRC+. Unfortunately he is having a disappointing spring but last year the Orioles made it clear that they value him.

Colton Cowser (JBB #36) – Colton Cowser may be the talk of spring training for the Orioles. He has in large part out shined Jackson Holliday. After struggling during a brief stint in the majors last season, Cowser is on fire this spring. He has only made 29 plate appearances but he has an OPS of 1.586 this spring. He is forcing his way into the opening day lineup.

Coby Mayo (JBB #12) – Mayo came in as a long shot to make the roster out of spring training due to how crowded it is but that may no longer be the case. In 38 plate appearances he has a .984 OPS this spring. After a strong showing in Triple-A last season (267 PA), coupled with his spring performance, Mayo has a case as the opening day third baseman.

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Connor Norby (JBB #76) – Connor Norby was blocked all of last season. Had he been in a different system he would have likely debuted by now. In a very small sample of just 13 plate appearances this spring, Norby has an OPS of 1.084.

Kyle Stowers – Kyle Stowers exceeded his rookie limits in 2022 but has been unable to stick in Baltimore. He was solid in 34 games during the 2022 season finishing with a 109 wRC+. However last season in 33 plate appearances he had a batting average of .067. So far this spring he is posting a .912 OPS. With consistent playing time, Stowers can be an everyday outfielder.

Unfortunately, there is just simply no room for Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers. Both have had great springs but it would be impossible for them to make the roster when the four previously listed prospects take priority.

How do the Prospects Fit in Baltimore?

While this is certainly not the most likely scenario for the opening day roster, there is a chance it plays out this way. Here is what the opening day roster could look like for the Orioles with four of the previously mentioned prospects on it.

Opening Day LineupOpening Day Bench
1. Cedric Mullins – CF1. James McCann – C
2. Adley Rutschman – C2. Jordan Westburg – UTL
3. Gunnar Henderson – SS3. Austin Hays – OF
4. Anthony Santander – DH4. Ramon Urias – INF
5. Ryan Mountcastle – 1B
6. Heston Kjerstad – RF
7. Coby Mayo – 3B
8. Colton Cowser – LF
9. Jackson Holliday – 2B

There are going to have to be moves made in order to make this roster happen. Let’s start with a couple of the more simple moves.

The Bench

This lineup relegates Austin Hays to the fourth outfielder role. With Santander serving as the primary DH, Hays would still be able to get a decent amount of run in the outfield especially with it being entirely left handed.

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If the Orioles are looking to shield Kjerstad or Cowser from lefties, Hays has historically hit lefties fairly well (114 wRC+). Hays and Cowser also both have the ability to play center at a solid level should Mullins need a day off.

Another player that would be relegated to the bench is Jordan Westburg. In 68 games with the Orioles last season, Westburg was league average at the plate and solid defensively. He entered this season as a likely starter but he can still get plenty of playing time in a utility role.

Westburg can play shortstop, third base, and second base at a very high level and would be the first infielder in off the bench. If Holliday struggles early on against lefties, Westburg can help shield him.

An interesting note on Westburg is he did log 51 innings in the outfield before debuting in 2023. If he is comfortable in a corner he would be another right-handed bat to help protect Cowser and Kjerstad from lefties.

Ramon Urias would then serve as an extra infielder. He offers Gold Glove defense at short stop, third base, and second base. He serves as a second utility infielder.

Who is out?

Coby Mayo and Jackson Holliday are not currently on the 40-Man roster. There are currently 39 players on the roster so one spot is available but another would need to come about. This is not terribly complicated as someone like Nick Maton or Tyler Nevin could be DFA’d to make room.

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Now that that is solved, what about the players no longer on the active roster?

Starting with Ryan O’Hearn, he still has one minor league option left. He can be sent to Triple-A Norfolk and be recalled if there is an injury or stay there until the Orioles work out a trade.

Jorge Mateo would be the other player taken off the active roster. There is likely a trade market for Mateo albeit small. If the Orioles could not work out a trade for Mateo by opening day, waiving him would not be a huge loss. Teams can also work out trades while a player is on waivers.

What About Norby and Stowers?

The beauty of being in the position of the Baltimore Orioles is their sheer depth of prospects. Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers still offer a lot of value for the Orioles. Their value comes in the flexibility that they will allow, particularly on the trade market.

The Orioles have already suffered injuries to their two best pitchers from last season. Felix Bautista is out for the whole season and Kyle Bradish is going to start the season on the injured list with no clear time table.

With Austin Hays and Ramon Urias relegated to the bench, there are teams who could use players like them. Hays is a good defensive corner outfielder with a career 107 wRC+. Ramon Urias is similarly a Gold Glove level defender at three infield positions with a 107 wRC+.

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The key difference is Hays has one year of control compared to three for Urias. The Orioles can now openly shop both of them and feel good knowing that Norby and Stowers are in the wing to take their place.

As I stated I think that this lineup being a possibility on opening day is a long shot. It would be really fun to see but one or more of these prospects likely starts in Triple-A this season.

However, if this or a similar lineup is the way that the Orioles decide to go the offensive potential is sky high. Wanting to compete this season makes it hard to justify a lineup this young, but if they all pan out the Orioles would be very dangerous.