O's celebrate prospects, take glimpse at bright future

October 4th, 2022

BALTIMORE -- The future is bright for the Orioles. This year, they promoted prospects like and , both of whom became major contributors to a playoff push for most of the season.

On Tuesday evening, infielder Jordan Westburg (named the club’s top Minor League player) and right-hander Ryan Watson (the organization’s top Minor League pitcher) were at Camden Yards. High-A Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado was named the winner of the Cal Ripken Sr. Player Development Award.

Westburg, the the No. 5 prospect in the Orioles' organization according to MLB Pipeline, had a slash line of .265/.355/.496 with 27 homers, 96 runs scored and 106 RBIs in 138 games between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.

Westburg led Orioles Minor Leaguers in doubles, extra-base hits (69), total bases (270) and RBIs. He also finished second in the organization in hits and home runs. After being promoted to the Tides on June 6, he led the International League with 74 RBIs and tied for the league lead with 25 doubles, while also ranking second in the IL with 46 extra-base hits, 184 total bases and 64 runs scored.

“I’m proud of the award,” Westburg said. “I put in a lot of work this offseason to produce the way I did this year. I’m happy that I won it. Essentially, at the big league level, it’s not about me. It’s about winning games and winning championships. That’s what it’s going to come down to. Right now, it’s still cool to win this award.”

Westburg said there is still work to be done before he reaches the Majors.

“I want to continue to be more consistent. I need to polish up the hit tool,” he said. “There are flashes of things clicking together, going into slumps and a little bit up and down. If I can smooth some of those things out, it gives me a better chance to play [in the big leagues].”

Watson was a free agent when he signed with the Orioles two years ago. He put together a strong 2022 season, going 7-5 with one save and a 3.44 ERA in 27 games (18 starts) between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk, holding opponents to a .223 batting average. He allowed just two hits and three walks with 16 strikeouts across 13 scoreless innings in three games (one start) to begin the season for the Baysox and was named Baltimore's Minor League Pitcher of the Month for April.

“The Orioles gave me a chance. I didn’t let it go to waste. … I tried to take advantage of an opportunity,” Watson said.

The Ripken Award is named after the late Orioles coach and manager who is widely regarded as the architect of “The Oriole Way.” Each year, a Minor League staff member who exemplifies Ripken’s qualities as an instructor is recognized with the award. Mercado, in his first year on the job after spending 18 years as a Dean of Students at New Britain (Conn.) High School, was instrumental in creating a positive culture and learning environment for the many prospects he managed. Twenty-seven players were promoted to Bowie under his watch, 19 of whom made their Double-A debuts this year.

“It's been a blessing just learning from a lot of different people,” Mercado said. “This organization has been like a family. It’s just different. I didn’t know what to expect in my first year. It’s been outstanding. I couldn't ask for a better first year.”