Prospect train keeps fueling young Orioles

June 28th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jake Rill’s Orioles Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- The Orioles determined that June 26, 2023, was the right date for ’s first callup to the big leagues and his ensuing MLB debut. What made that so?

“We’re going to bring guys up here if we feel like they can help us win,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We feel like Jordan can help us win and impact our team positively. It’s not a development situation. We’re trying to win games.”

How times have changed in Baltimore.

The O’s, now 48-30 following Tuesday’s loss to the Reds, are 18 games above .500, a position they haven't been in since 2016. The biggest difference this time is that Baltimore also currently has a farm system widely regarded as the best in baseball, which was far from the case back then.

Early in Hyde’s tenure, the big league team struggled (131-253 from 2019-21) as the organization rebuilt. Now, the Orioles are having success. And they’re thriving while multiple top prospects have appeared close to being big league ready in the upper levels of the Minors.

Westburg (MLB Pipeline’s No. 33 overall prospect) was among that group. He departed a talented Triple-A Norfolk squad that still includes outfielders Colton Cowser (No. 14) and Heston Kjerstad (No. 39), infielders Joey Ortiz (No. 66) and Connor Norby (No. 70) and more.

“This is what healthy organizations do, is they have not just a talented Major League team, but they have guys competing in the Minor Leagues also,” Hyde said. “Most good Major League teams have good players in Triple-A, [and] it’s tough to break through because the big league team is doing well.

“We’re excited about the guys we have in Triple-A. There’s going to probably be more callups at some point throughout the year, and that’s always going to be exciting.”

Hyde and general manager Mike Elias have both stated there are constant conversations between them and the rest of Baltimore’s front office regarding possible promotions. Westburg was a popular topic for a while. Others are knocking on the door themselves -- most notably Cowser, with his .978 OPS in 52 Triple-A games this season.

There are more talented, big league-caliber players in the organization than spots available on Baltimore’s 26-man active roster. As the common cliche in baseball goes, it’s a “good problem to have.”

It may seem like it would be difficult for these youngsters to wait for their time to arrive. But Westburg didn’t feel that way.

“I was just focused on trying to get better every single day. Trying to make sure that I was doing what I’m doing to maybe set myself up to be at this step where I am right now,” said Westburg, the No. 30 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. “It didn’t feel like a long time. It felt like I got drafted yesterday.”

So far, Westburg has made a strong first impression with the O’s. Over his first two games, he went 3-for-7 with two walks, an RBI and a run scored while playing strong defense in the infield.

Nobody is surprised. And they won’t be in the future, either, if the next prospects who show up get off to similarly impressive starts.

“They’re playing really good ball down there, and I know they want to carry it over when they get up here,” said rookie infielder Gunnar Henderson, a former No. 1 overall prospect. “Really looking forward to having [Westburg] up here and just being able to spend time with him again, because it’s been a long time coming.”