Which Triple-A Norfolk standout could join O's next?

May 1st, 2024

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 -- Triple-A Norfolk entered the 2024 season with one of the most stacked rosters in the Minor Leagues. The Tides have top prospects galore, with a plethora of guys who have been knocking on the Orioles’ big league door.

Infielder Jackson Holliday (MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect) and outfielder Heston Kjerstad (No. 29 overall) have both reached Baltimore this year. Holliday had a 10-game stint before getting sent back down to Triple-A, while Kjerstad is currently on the O’s roster.

Which other highly regarded youngsters could play for the Orioles this year? General manager Mike Elias recently discussed the status of three prospects who have been thriving with Norfolk.

3B/1B (O’s No. 3, No. 27 overall)
2024 stats: .330/.400/.652 slash line with six doubles, two triples, nine homers, 25 RBIs and 21 runs scored in 28 games.

Elias’ take: “We are having to do a bit of thought of where to concentrate his defensive efforts, because his defensive home -- especially for a big-bodied guy like he is -- is naturally behind his bat. We’ve got some options there, and it’s something that we talk about and examine in the context of our team on an ongoing basis. But when you’re in Triple-A performing well, you’re close, you’re in the conversation.”

Outlook: If the 22-year-old Mayo continues to rake, he’s going to force his way to Baltimore. He’d be an offensive upgrade at third base over Ramón Urías. Despite Mayo’s improvement at third over the past year, though, he’d be a defensive downgrade, as Urías won a Gold Glove at the position in 2022. But Mayo’s powerful right-handed bat should get him to MLB for the first time this year.

2B/OF (O’s No. 6)
2024 stats: .280/.353/.517 slash line with seven doubles, seven homers, 22 RBIs and 23 runs scored in 27 games.

Elias’ take: “Connor’s doing really well. I think it feels like he’s been in Triple-A longer than he has. He’s moved really quickly, too. He was drafted in 2021 and has not played a full season in Triple-A yet. He’s also somebody that is working on his defense at second base, and he’s also working out in the corner outfield, too. So, his time is coming. We’re talking about him. He’s a topic of conversation, which is always a good sign.”

Outlook: Norby has played 174 games at Triple-A over the past three seasons, and the 23-year-old appears ready for the big leagues. (He had 40 doubles, 21 homers and 92 RBIs to go with an .842 OPS in 138 games in 2023.) His outfield defense is a work in progress. But if Holliday remains in Triple-A for a while, the Orioles could call up Norby and play him a good bit at second base, which would slide Jordan Westburg primarily back over to third.

LHP (O’s No. 9)
2024 stats: 1.03 ERA with 40 strikeouts, 10 walks and a 0.76 WHIP in 26 1/3 innings over five starts

Elias’ take: “To see these types of numbers in Triple-A has been a nice reassurance of what we thought he was capable of. ... It’s hard for me to poke too many holes in what he’s doing. He’s gaining valuable experience. He’s really, really close. Great development for us so far. I hope he keeps going and staying healthy.”

Outlook: Baltimore already has a crowded rotation picture with Kyle Bradish (right UCL sprain) and John Means (left forearm strain) set to return later this week. But the 24-year-old Povich could work his way into the mix if more injuries occur or if any starters struggle deeper into the season. Povich’s fastball/changeup combo should play well in the big leagues.

Here are some additional recent Minor League highlights:

• Double-A Bowie: (O’s No. 2, No. 16 overall) was at catcher for the first time this season on Tuesday night after previously only playing first base and designated hitter while recovering from a right elbow stress fracture. The 19-year-old went 2-for-5 with a double, a homer and three RBIs in Bowie’s 10-8 win over Erie.

Basallo has slugged three homers over his past two contests. He is slashing .262/.276/.440 with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 21 games this season.

• High-A Aberdeen: Outfielder capped a hot April by recording four straight multihit games to end the month. A 2023 10th-round Draft pick out of Southern Mississippi, the 22-year-old is slashing .343/.422/.557 with five doubles, two triples, two homers and 12 RBIs in 19 games for the IronBirds this season.

• Single-A Delmarva: Luis De León (O’s No. 17) made four starts for the Shorebirds in April, recording a 1.65 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings. The 21-year-old left-hander capped the month by allowing one unearned run on one hit and one walk in a season-high 5 2/3 innings vs. Fredericksburg last Friday. He notched eight strikeouts in the outing.