Over the weekend against Tampa Bay, the Orioles gave left-hander DL Hall a taste of the majors, hoping he would learn from his one start and apply those lessons as he prepares to serve in a relief role down the stretch.
With Triple-A Norfolk, he’ll have a good example of how to handle such circumstances. The Orioles are now in Toronto, where they deployed a similar tactic in June with outfielder Kyle Stowers, called up for a series as a substitute player. Stowers received only eight plate appearances during that stint, going 1-for-7 with four strikeouts, but since rejoining Triple-A Norfolk, he’s hit .288/.371/.531 — good for a .902 OPS — with 22 of his 46 hits going for extra bases.
Stowers, Baltimore’s No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America, leads the International League in RBIs and ranks second in extra-base hits. He paces Orioles full-season minor leaguers in those categories and home runs, trailing only top overall prospect Gunnar Henderson in slugging percentage and OPS.
“When guys can get a taste and see what it’s like up here, I think that’s always a positive,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “They go back down, they know what they’re working toward, what it felt like up here. You never know until you’re here, honestly, and playing in these environments and facing the pitching that you’re facing and the hitters that DL was gonna face. Now, you have something to work on and something to work towards, and hopefully, that’s what DL is going to do, and I think Kyle’s done a good job of that this year.”
Stowers continued to do so this past series. Each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down five of the top performers in the Orioles’ prospect ranks and hand out some superlatives for those who didn’t make that cut.
1. Triple-A Norfolk outfielder Kyle Stowers
Stowers’ performance continues to produce wonders of why it’s coming in Triple-A rather than the majors. In a series against Rochester, he slashed .304/.429/.522, doubling twice with a home run. Although he also drew five walks, he did strike out nine times, all in a three-game span; if there’s one clear weakness in his game, it’s swing and miss, though his strikeout and swinging strike rates are down from 2021. But it’s possible that will be a tradeoff for the power he provides. Notably, he’s actually performed better in left-on-left matchups, with a .996 OPS compared to an .865 mark when he has the platoon advantage.
2. High-A Aberdeen left-hander Cade Povich
Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias labeled Povich as the key piece of the four minor league pitchers Baltimore received from the Minnesota Twins for All-Star closer Jorge López, saying the 22-year-old left-hander has front-of-the-rotation potential. He showed it in what proved to be his lone two starts with Aberdeen, pitching six shutout innings in both before getting promoted to Double-A Bowie. Chayce McDermott, acquired from the Houston Astros as half of the return for first baseman Trey Mancini, also moved up after striking out seven over four innings last week for the IronBirds.
3. Triple-A Norfolk infielder Jordan Westburg
Early in his stint with Norfolk, Westburg seemed on the fast track to a potential promotion, ending June with a 1.077 OPS before his bat slowed exceptionally. In a five-series stretch from early July to early August, the Orioles’ No. 6 prospect hit .183 with a .517 OPS. He finally began to shake that off last week against Rochester, posting a 1.100 OPS thanks to a pair each of home runs and doubles. He also walked six times opposite six strikeouts, a significant progression after striking out three times as much as he walked during the previous slump.
4. High-A Aberdeen utilityman Billy Cook
Baltimore’s 10th-round pick in the 2021 draft, Cook has been fairly streaky in his first full professional season. He managed four extra-base hits among the IronBirds’ previous four series, then delivered five alone — three doubles and two home runs — last week against Hudson Valley, adding two steals. He’s played all three outfield spots and both first and second for the IronBirds, hitting .202 with a .684 OPS overall.
5. Double-A right-hander Garrett Stallings
That Stallings was recognized as the Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the month for July speaks to how far he’s come from a disastrous June. He’s kept it going in August. Since allowing 10 earned runs while recording 10 outs to leave his June ERA at 28.50, Stallings, who turned 25 last week, has a 1.73 ERA over his past seven outings, walking only three of the 138 batters he’s faced in that span. Last week against Akron, he allowed one run on three hits over six innings, striking out five while walking none.
The top prospect not featured so far
As baseball’s top prospect, Henderson automatically qualifies for this spot with anything other than a standout week. The 21-year-old infielder was solid for Norfolk, hitting .269 with a .790 OPS, but struck out an atypical 13 times. He’s struck out in 16 of his past 34 plate appearances, a trend that will hamper any internal consideration of adding him to the major league roster for a playoff push.
International acquisition of the week
César Prieto’s bat hasn’t quite thrived the way it did with Aberdeen since he moved up to Bowie, but perhaps this past week can be a turning point. The 23-year-old recorded nine hits, a double and home run among them, and posted a .942 OPS. Known for his bat-to-ball skills, Prieto struck out only three times, though he also walked just once. Baltimore’s No. 16 prospect has hit .285 with a .711 OPS while playing all around the infield for the Baysox.
The best former top-30 prospect of the week
A backend top 30 prospect in 2019, Bowie right-hander Brenan Hanifee got little chance to build on that status, losing the 2020 season as all minor leaguers did before undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in May 2021. He had a couple of rough outings in Bowie’s rotation in July but had his best start since returning with 4 2/3 innings Thursday in which the only run he allowed was unearned. Baltimore’s fourth-round draftee in 2016, Hanifee is only 24 years old and could soon reestablish himself as a top 30 talent.
Time to give some shine to …
Having joined Delmarva as an 18-year-old, right-hander Yaqui Rivera had his struggles early, but that certainly wasn’t the case Friday. Now 19, he pitched five perfect innings of relief on only 50 pitches, striking out six as he combined with Juan De Los Santos on a one-hitter. Rivera was one of the prospects the Orioles got from the Miami Marlins in exchange for relievers Tanner Scott and Cole Sulser.
In his first week in the Florida Complex League, 2022 first overall pick Jackson Holliday went 2-for-6 with a walk and a stolen base. In what proved to be his last week in the FCL, 67th overall pick Jud Fabian went 5-for-8 and drew six walks before a promotion to Delmarva. Jose Ramirez, a 19-year-old left-hander signed out of Venezuela in 2019, struck out 11 over five innings in a Dominican Summer League start.
Fabian and nine other draftees joined the Shorebirds from the FCL, with Dylan Beavers (competitive balance A round), Max Wagner (second), Silas Ardoin (fourth), Cameron Weston (eighth), Adam Crampton (ninth), Bradley Brehmer (12th), Jared Beck (13th), Adam Retzbach (14th) and Reese Sharp (20th) also promoted. Keagan Gillies, Baltimore’s 15th-round choice last year, and Juan Nunez, acquired along with Povich and two others for López, will head to Delmarva, as well.
To create space at Bowie for Povich and McDermott, the Orioles promoted left-hander Drew Rom, their No. 18 prospect, and right-hander Ryan Watson, among the system’s top breakout players, to Norfolk. Infielder Luis Valdez, who leads all Baltimore minor leaguers with 59 steals, jumped from Delmarva to Aberdeen.
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