Trio of top O's prospects reach Double-A

June 27th, 2022

Welcome to the Orioles prospect update, where you’ll find news, promotions and standout performances, all year long.

Orioles top prospect: Rankings | Stats | Box scores

June 27: Cowser, Mayo, Norby all promoted to Double-A
The Orioles rewarded a trio of their top prospects on Monday, promoting outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 4), and infielders Coby Mayo (No. 7) and Connor Norby (No. 10) to Double-A Bowie. The elevation of the three means that nine of the O's top 10 prospects (and 14 of the top 15), as ranked by MLB Pipeline, are either in the upper levels of the Minors or in the Majors.

Mayo has been the standout of the bunch, his 13 homers as part of a .250/.326/.479 (.805 OPS) slash line tied with Anthony Santander for the organizational lead. The 20-year-old third baseman, selected in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft, will serve as one of the youngest players at the Double-A level, following in the footsteps of Gunnar Henderson (No. 3), recently promoted to Triple-A. Norby has battled a gamut of injuries for a .237/.311/.425 (.736 OPS) line through 48 games.

Cowser, meanwhile, has had a bit of a tale of two seasons, slashing .294/.415/.461 (.875 OPS) across his last 28 games with nearly as many walks (20) as strikeouts (28) after compiling just a .226/.362/.371 (.733 OPS) line through his first 34, striking out twice as much as he walked. The oldest of the trio, Cowser has the best shot of impacting the big league team as soon as 2023.

All three will join an already-flashy Bowie infield, playing alongside shortstop Joey Ortiz (No. 14) and César Prieto (No. 11). This top crop of Orioles talent is just missing Heston Kjerstad (No. 9), the lone top prospect still in the lower levels. But his early successes of his professional debut could see him rising through the ranks sooner than later. -- Zachary Silver

Kjerstad blasts first pro homer (June 24)
It was the home run Heston Kjerstad and the Orioles waited two years for. 

Kjerstad showed off the power stroke that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 Draft, cranking his first career home run in his 10th game at Single-A Delmarva. The Orioles’ No. 9 prospect also walked and reached three times in the Shorebirds’ 5-4 loss to Lynchburg, extending his seven-game hit streak in the process. 

It was the latest encouraging effort from Kjerstad, who didn’t make his professional debut until earlier this month but has done nothing but rake since finally stepping on the field. Kjerstad is hitting .405 with eight RBIs and five walks in his first 42 plate appearances at Delmarva after his big night Friday. He was sidelined for alternate site training during his draft summer and all of 2021 recovering from myocarditis, a viral heart condition. 

"I never thought my first professional homer would be in 2022, but everybody has a little different journey,” Kjerstad said. “It’s unreal. Every every homer you hit is the best feeling you get playing the game, without a doubt. But without having had that feeling for a long time, and everything I've been through, it was electric. It got my blood pumping.” Full story »

Westburg, Henderson, Stowers shine in Norfolk hit parade (June 24)
If this really is the Orioles’ future, then it's going to hit.

Several of the top prospects in the Orioles’ top-ranked farm system powered Triple-A Norfolk’s 10-7 win over Lehigh Valley at Coca-Cola Park. Five Tides recorded multihit efforts as Norfolk erupted for a season-high 21 hits, its most in a game since April 19, 2016, at Charlotte.

No. 6 prospect Jordan Westburg led the way with a career-high five hits, No. 8 outfielder Kyle Stowers had four hits, including his 13th homer, and No. 3 infielder Gunnar Henderson collected three hits and scored twice out of the leadoff spot, going deep in the ninth. Those three of the Orioles’ top eight prospects are thriving at the top of Norfolk’s lineup. Full story »

Aberdeen arms combine to toss no-hitter (June 18)
High-A Aberdeen had already clinched the South Atlantic League East Division first-half title, but that didn’t stop them from pressing down the gas and making some more history.

Three IronBirds pitchers -- Peter Van Loon, Daniel Lloyd and Xavier Moore -- combined to toss a no-hitter in the Orioles affiliate’s 6-0 win over the Jersey Shore BlueClaws in Lakewood, N.J., on Saturday.

Van Loon struck out six batters over five innings before giving way to Lloyd for the sixth through eighth innings. He was followed by Moore, who worked around a hit batsman to shut the door in the ninth. The trio of arms etched their names in Aberdeen baseball lore by contributing to the second no-no in franchise history. Full story »

Hall deals for Triple-A Norfolk (June 16)
O's No. 5 prospect DL Hall had it all working for the Tides, striking out a career-high 11 batters and allowing one run in just 4 1/3 innings. It marked the third straight start for Hall in which he allowed two earned runs or fewer and pitched more than four frames (30 strikeouts in that span).

Hall, No. 79 on MLB's Top 100 Prospects list, has posted a 3.52 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 10 starts across three levels this season.

Aberdeen blasts its way into the playoffs (June 15)
What's better than back-to-back homers? Back-to-back homers to clinch the team's first playoff spot since 2013. 

The Orioles' No. 4 prospect Colton Cowser and No. 7 prospect Coby Mayo smashed consecutive homers to lead the IronBirds to a playoff berth. 

Cowser led off the fireworks with a two-run blast to right field on a 1-2 pitch to give the 'Birds their first lead of the game. Mayo followed with a solo shot to left on an 0-2 pitch that put High-A Aberdeen up for good in a 3-2 win over Jersey Shore. The left fielder ended the night 1-for-4, while the third baseman was 3-for-4 to secure a spot in the 2022 playoffs. --Ethan Sands

Westburg continues Triple-A domination with triple, homer (June 11)
The jump from Double-A to Triple-A is supposed to be difficult, but Jordan Westburg apparently didn't get the memo.

The Orioles' No. 6 prospect went 2-for-5 with a triple and a home run -- his fourth and fifth extra-base hits in four games since getting the bump up -- in Norfolk's 4-2 loss to Nashville.

Westburg began picking up steam with Double-A Bowie about a month ago and never looked back. He hit .322 with a 1.559 OPS over his final 22 games with the Baysox before joining the Tides, where he's hit safely in eight of his first 17 at-bats. -- Jacob Resnick

Kjerstad makes pro debut two years after Draft (June 10)
For the first time since being taken with the second overall pick in the 2020 Draft, Heston Kjerstad took the field in a professional baseball game.

The No. 9 Orioles prospect has been sidelined since shortly after the Draft due to the lingering effects of myocarditis, a viral inflammation of the heart, as a result of catching COVID-19 in the summer of 2020.

Kjerstad batted third as the designated hitter for Single-A Delmarva in its 7-1 loss, and he chopped an RBI groundout in his very first professional plate appearance. The 23-year-old finished the game 1-for-4, lacing a single to left on a 3-1 count in the bottom of the sixth for his first career hit. -- Stephanie Sheehan

Henderson homers in first Triple-A at-bat (June 8)
Gunnar Henderson might be the youngest player at the Triple-A level, still just 20 years old. But you'd have no way of knowing as he left in his mark in the Tides' 8-3 victory over Nashville on the road.

At least, that's the sense the third-ranked Orioles prospect gave in his first at-bat for the Tides, homering on the second pitch he saw for his first hit, home run, RBI -- all the accolades. It was a loud way to continue what's already been a scorching climb of a 2022 season.

Most impressive about the feat may have been the context. Henderson rocketed the ball to right-center off Ethan Small, who's already debuted in the Majors this season, is a top Brewers prospect, is a former first-round pick and a left-hander. That last truism, with Henderson's splits against lefties perhaps the only blemish on his 2022 campaign, may be the most crucial.

Henderson's blast was an emphatic moment in what could be a watershed game for the Orioles' organization. The top four hitters in the Tides' lineup featured No. 14 prospect Terrin Vavra at leadoff in his first game back from a hamstring strain ahead of Henderson. Following them were No. 6 prospect Jordan Westburg, who drove in a pair of runs on a single and a double in his Triple-A debut, and No. 8 Kyle Stowers. In all, four of the O's top 15 prospects and three of their top eight were in the lineup, with No. 5 DL Hall watching from the dugout. -- Zachary Silver

Henderson, Westburg now one call away from Majors (June 6)
The Orioles on Monday made infielder Gunnar Henderson the youngest player in Triple-A, as they awarded the 20-year-old with a promotion to the highest circuit in the Minor Leagues after he compiled a gaudy 1.025 OPS across 47 games at Double-A.

Henderson, the club's No. 3 prospect, who turns 21 on June 29, will be joined by No. 6 prospect Jordan Westburg, 23, who has been rewarded for compiling a .247/.345/.473 slash line (.817 OPS) for Double-A Bowie. The promotion of each means that seven of the O's top 10 prospects are either at the Triple-A level or in the Majors.

Recently tabbed by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias as "a flagship" of the O's player development program, Henderson might very well be having the best season of anyone in the organization. He's slashing .312/.452/.573 with more walks (41) than strikeouts (38), thanks in part to a 29-game on-base streak he compiled to start the year. He's doing so while alternating with Westburg between third base and shortstop.

Now at Triple-A, Henderson (ranked the No. 46 prospect in baseball) will join C.J. Abrams (No. 6) and Riley Greene (No. 2) as notable youngsters just a call away from the Major Leagues. Rays phenom Wander Franco was also 20 when he debuted at Triple-A last season. While Abrams has already debuted and it appears Greene's promotion is just a matter of health, Henderson will likely have to wait until 2023 to reach the Majors.

Nevertheless, Henderson stands among the youngest O's to have been promoted to Triple-A. Notable among that group are former top prospects Jonathan Schoop and Chance Sisco, each spending their age-21 seasons at Norfolk. Manny Machado, the O's most successful homegrown player in recent memory, was elevated directly from Bowie at 19 years old. -- Zachary Silver

Hall earns first win for Triple-A Norfolk (June 5)
DL Hall fanned a season-high nine batters in his eighth start of the year.

The Orioles' No. 5 prospect has been on the move in his fifth professional season, beginning with High-A Aberdeen and making his way up to Triple-A with the Tides.

Hall allowed two runs on two hits and two walks over five innings in Norfolk's 8-2 win over Jacksonville. The California native has held hitters at bay, keeping their averages below .245 the entire season while posting a 3.99 ERA.

The 23-year-old left-hander got some run support from eighth-ranked Kyle Stowers, who went 2-for-4 with a two-run homer to right-center field in the second inning and a solo shot to right in the sixth.

That was just the cushion Hall needed to earn his first win at Triple-A. -- Ethan Sands