DL Hall arrived, the Orioles’ top (healthy) pitching prospect making his long-awaited debut on Saturday against the Rays at Tropicana Field, although his next contributions to the club will come after he resets as a reliever with Triple-A Norfolk. His landing was yet another watershed moment in a season full of them.
Not only are the Orioles graduating a corps of their top prospects, but they are doing so while competing for a postseason spot.
After making no moves to help the big league club at the Trade Deadline, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias made clear that reinforcements would come from within.
So Hall was here. Adley Rutschman is here. Terrin Vavra is here. Kyle Bradish has been here. Who’s next?
OF Kyle Stowers (O’s No. 7 prospect)
Educated guess: Imminently
Asked at the Trade Deadline if the Orioles had considered filling Trey Mancini’s roster spot with Stowers, Elias responded that the club is having conversations about when to call him up “daily,” but it hasn’t felt that it’s time. Elias added: "Is he 100 percent ready? I don't know.”
The Orioles like to see runaway success -- what they call “graduating” -- from their prospects at one level before moving them up.
Stowers is doing all he can. In ten games since Elias’ comments, he has hit a pair of homers and driven in 15 runs with an OPS north of 1.000. On the year, he’s second in the organization to Anthony Santander with 19 long balls, and he's slashing .270/.364/.546 (.909 OPS) across his first 90 games -- and batting even better against left-handers than righties. He’s pushing the envelope, looking to make his June cameo in Toronto a distant memory.
SS/3B Gunnar Henderson (No. 2)
Educated guess: September (if at all)
Ten years ago, in the midst of an American League Wild Card chase, the Orioles called up a phenom straight from Double-A to bolster their roster. That 2012 team, not thought to be a postseason contender, ultimately pushed the Yankees to five games in the AL Division Series.
That was Manny Machado. Could Henderson be the next iteration?
The parallels aren’t perfect. These front offices are far different, and that 2012 team was second in the AL East when Machado debuted at 19. But Henderson, 21, is older than Machado was, and he’s dominating the Triple-A circuit with a .287/.400/.511 slash line (.911 OPS) and 21 extra-base hits through his first 50 games with Norfolk. There are areas to improve -- his strikeout numbers are up from Double-A Bowie, and his walks are down. But few, if any, prospects have surged up the landscape more than Henderson or might make a mark as strong.
If Elias is full-throttle on bolstering from within, Henderson would be the strongest card to play.
RHP Grayson Rodriguez (No. 1)
Educated guess: Late September (if at all)
Health is the biggest concern here, with Rodriguez still working his way back from a right lat strain he endured at the start of June. But he began throwing off a mound for the first time this week, and his progress has given the organization confidence that he can get into games by season’s end. Whether that comes in the Minors or in the big leagues is to be determined. And if he does return, he’ll assuredly be on tight pitch and innings limits, possibly in relief.
But imagine Rodriguez and Hall sharing a pitching staff, pitching in tandem during a potential Wild Card series?
3B/SS Jordan Westburg (No. 5)
Educated guess: 2023
At the start of the year, Westburg might have been one of the likelier off-radar candidates to earn a callup. In Spring Training, he was given a start against the Yankees in Tampa, a signal that the Orioles saw him as more Major League ready than perhaps some younger farmhands.
It’s still possible Westburg makes it up this season, although the lack of a clear playing position (in a world in which Henderson is called up, too) perhaps does take away from his chances. Plus, if we’re going by the level graduation barometer, he has a bit to prove. He currently has a wholly impressive but not quite dominant .269/.332/.493 slash line (.824 OPS) through his first 49 games at Triple-A.