BALTIMORE -- When the Orioles opted to start a bundle of their more notable upper-level prospects in the Minors this spring, they made very clear their desire to see many of them in the Majors as soon as this summer. For several, that opportunity appears to be growing closer.
Speaking in the Orioles' dugout on Wednesday afternoon, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias made specific mention of Chance Sisco and DJ Stewart as blue chippers who could find themselves back in Baltimore in short fashion. Elias’ remarks were part of a wide-ranging group media session, his first since the season’s opening week.
“Chance Sisco is doing really well right now. DJ Stewart is doing really well right now,” Elias said. “That’s very much on our radar.”
The most imminent of the bunch seems to be Sisco, whom the Orioles sent to Triple-A Norfolk for more seasoning despite a torrid showing in Grapefruit League play. Their decision then centered around Sisco’s defensive development as much as his ability in the batter’s box, an area where a source indicated recently Sisco is making strides. Sisco is also enjoying his best campaign offensively at Norfolk, where he has spent parts of four seasons, slashing .258/.370/.484 with seven home runs in 34 games in 2019.
“Sisco is somebody that we’re counting on and care about,” Elias said. “Maybe that [promotion is] soon.”
For Stewart, the path is more complicated given his lack of defensive versatility. The club went out and acquired Keon Broxton on Wednesday to fill its hole in center field in part because it views Stewart strictly as a corner outfielder. The O's being covered there with Trey Mancini and Dwight Smith Jr. doesn’t mean Stewart’s performance isn’t demanding attention.
Baltimore’s No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline, Stewart has been white hot in May, hitting .435 with five home runs this month. He entered play Wednesday with a .285/.400/.562 slash line, eight home runs and 31 RBIs in 38 games overall.
“It’s hard to find an easy way of getting him here,” Elias said. “We’d love to have him join this team on the sooner side.”
The club’s calculus is different with regards to Ryan Mountcastle and left-hander Keegan Akin, with Elias confirming both are further away in their development. Mountcastle, the Orioles’ No. 1 prospect, has emerged as one of the International League’s top hitters in his first season at that level. But he’s still just 22 and learning a new position, playing everyday at first base for the first time. Elias said Mountcastle might see reps in the outfield in time, as well.
“We want to give him some different options,” Elias said. “He hasn’t gone through the league a second time yet. He has to do some work defensively still.”
Elias said more seasoning is in store as well for Akin, the organization’s reigning Minor League Pitcher of the Year who is 2-1 with a 3.60 ERA through his first eight starts at Norfolk. Akin is the club’s No. 6 prospect.
“He’s one of those guys we’re extremely hopeful on and counting on to be a future rotation piece here,” Elias said. “We want to make sure he has the proper footing to do that. I don’t think a month and a half at Triple-A is the end of that story. There are things he can still work on to get himself to the Majors.”