KANSAS CITY -- Kyle Stowers wasn’t in Kansas City at the time of the announcement, but he will be in Toronto.
That's the news the Orioles unveiled prior to Sunday’s series finale against the Royals, that Stowers -- their No. 8 prospect -- will join the team on the taxi squad for the four-game set against the Blue Jays, with the very good chance he makes his debut.
“He's having a good year in Triple-A,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde. “It's a loose left-handed swing, he's got huge power, I like the way he plays defense. … He's got a chance to hit. Still a really young player, like a lot of our guys, but big upside.”
The Orioles will shuffle their roster before heading to Toronto, with multiple players expected to land on the restricted list. Baltimore has not specified why players may land on the restricted list, but individuals must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to enter Canada, as required by federal law. Players may be placed on the restricted list if they cannot enter in order to free up roster spots, but they will not receive Major League pay or service time.
That created an opening for Stowers, who will be joined on the taxi squad by catcher Anthony Bemboom and right-handers Rico Garcia and Mike Baumann -- the latter two already with the team in Kansas City -- as well as possibly more, Hyde said. Players joining clubs in Canada are not required to be added to the 40-man roster if not already on it, and they do not have to clear waivers in order to be sent back to the Minors.
Historical tendency would seem to suggest Stowers, now 24, will get playing time in Toronto, and possibly a lion’s share of starts at that. The club will likely not want to take away at-bats -- and thereby development -- from its second-round Draft pick out of Stanford in 2019, with the dual benefit of getting him Major League experience without adding him to the 40-man roster.
It nonetheless remains a matter of time before Stowers is a staple in the O’s outfield, almost assuredly before the end of the summer but possibly only when the futures of potential trade chips Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander are solidified.
Stowers profiles as being able to play any of the three outfield positions, spending his time at Triple-A Norfolk split rather evenly between center field and right. Offensively, it’s been a tale of two seasons thus far, as he hit just .200/.306/.388 (.694 OPS) with three homers through his first 24 games but now owns a gaudy .301/.400/.688 (1.088 OPS) slash line with nine homers across his last 25 appearances.
In a span of eight games in mid-May, Stowers blasted seven long balls, including a three-homer performance on May 20, amid a torrid stretch that earned him International League Player of the Week honors.
“Been feeling confident all year,” Stowers said at the time. “I'm really, really proud of the way I've gone about things this year. I feel like I'm just getting more and more steady as an individual and a player. … All I can really do is just take things day by day, keep getting one step closer to the idealized player that I see myself becoming one day. If I get a step closer to that each day, then I'm happy with how the day went.”
When Stowers joins the team in Toronto, it will make it so four of the O’s top 15 prospects -- No. 1 Adley Rutschman, No. 8 Stowers, No. 10 Kyle Bradish and No. 13 Baumann -- are in the same clubhouse. After the promotions of No. 2 Gunnar Henderson and No. 6 Jordan Westburg to Triple-A on Monday, nine of the O’s top 15 will be at the highest two levels in baseball.
The tide that has begun to turn in Baltimore keeps churning -- and Stowers is one more example of that sea-change.
“It's exciting,” Hyde said. “It's exciting for the coaching staff, it's exciting for the club and the fans to show that we've gone through a few tough years and now we're getting our guys to the upper levels. It's a real talented group. It's guys that are physical, fast, pitchers that throw hard, pitchers that have big league stuff.
“Got toolsy guys. We've kind of been missing that for a while now, and now we have some of those types of guys getting here and close.”
It remains to be seen whether Stowers’ callup is simply for a four-game cameo or for a more prolonged look in the Majors. But the chance for him to join the team in Toronto even if he doesn’t play will give him a taste of what the club hopes is an enduring, fruitful career in Baltimore.
“You don't know what it's like here until you get here -- kind of just see it up close, see what a big league clubhouse feels like,” Hyde said. “It's just a lot different when you get here. I think it's a nice way to see, for any young player, what this actually looks like, feels like before they get on the field.”