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 on Friday night 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.
Particularly notable is Westburg, who continues to rake following a recent promotion to Triple-A. The shortstop is slashing .413/.439/.825 with five homers and 16 RBIs in 14 games with the Tides, after hitting .247/.344/.473 with nine homers and 32 RBIs in 47 games at Double-A Bowie to begin the year. Westburg is on an eight-game hit streak and already has nine multihit games with the Tides.
Westburg is pairing with Henderson at third to form one of the most productive left sides of an infield in the Minors. The soon-to-be-21-year-old Henderson (who turns 21 on Wednesday) is hitting .293 with three homers and a .940 OPS in 16 games at Triple-A, and .307/.449/.553 with 11 homers and 45 RBIs in 63 total games this season.
Then there is Stowers, whom the club snagged 71st overall in the same Draft as Henderson. The slugging outfielder recently made his big league debut with Baltimore during a short trip to Toronto, then returned to Triple-A, after he broke out in 2021. Stowers led all Orioles prospects in homers last season (27) and is hitting .260 with 13 homers, 39 RBIs and .910 OPS in 54 games at Norfolk this year.
The Orioles have loaded up on position players in the Draft under executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias, headlined by top picks like Adley Rutschman (1st overall, 2019), Heston Kjerstad (2nd overall, '20) and Colton Cowser (5th overall, '21). Rutschman appears to be finding his footing after debuting in May, putting together another strong offensive performance Friday in Chicago. Kjerstad drilled his first professional homer Friday after two years sidelined by illness, and Cowser is progressing well at High-A Aberdeen.
But picks like Westburg, Henderson and Stowers displayed the extent of Elias’ bat-centric approached to the Draft, and those players now form the core of enviable position player depth in the O's system. And all are thriving now at the Minor Leagues’ highest level. A few more weeks like this, and they could be knocking down the door to Baltimore, together.