Orioles flex prospect talent in latest Baseball America rankings

When Mike Elias arrived in Baltimore in November of 2018, he forewarned fans of a painful few years as he laid out an organizational rebuild. 

He outlined how the rebuild would have to be done from the bottom up, and it would require some tough seasons during the process. Of course, being Charm City, the fans would welcome the blueprint as long as success came on the other side. 

After the 2022 season saw the Orioles awarded the top farm system in baseball with No. 1 overall prospect Adley Rutschman leading the way and the big league club fighting until the final week of the season for a postseason birth, the tide looks like it’s beginning to turn.   

The big news headed into the season is that, once again, the Orioles have the top farm system in baseball. But the organization also leads the way with eight prospects in Baseball America’s top 100, including three in the top 15.  

The Orioles also became the first organization to have consecutive draft classes produce back-to-back No. 1 overall prospects (Adley Rutschman & Gunnar Henderson)

Let’s dive in and see where these eight prospects fall on Baseball America’s top 100 prospects rankings, along with their current MLB Pipeline Orioles organization ranking.

Gunnar Henderson INF – BA: No. 1 / Orioles: No. 1

Where can you find a weakness in Henderson’s game? The 21-year-old phenom has been everything and more since being drafted behind Adley Rutschman in 2019.

A smooth fielding infielder, with a strong arm, great instincts and all the tools to be a top star, Henderson looks to embark on his first full season in the majors in 2023. A brief 34-game debut last season saw Henderson hit .259 across 116 at-bats, where he would collect 30 total hits and 16 walks to aid his .348 OBP, hitting four home runs and driving in 18 runs in the process.

Henderson earned his call-up last season by slashing .297/.416/.531 across 112 games in two minor league levels. He totaled 121 hits, including 19 home runs, 76 RBIs, 101 runs and 79 walks.

Henderson is a game-changing talent with the ability to hit to all fields and possesses a raw power that gives him 20-homer potential.  

More than likely manning the third base position this season for the Birds, Henderson is the early favorite for Rookie of the Year and will form a strong 1-2-3 punch with Rutschman and fellow rookie slugger Kyle Stowers.

Grayson Rodriguez RHP – BA: No. 6 / Orioles: No. 2

Of course, if you’ve followed the Orioles and Minor League Baseball, Grayson Rodriguez is a familiar name.

Possessing a plus fastball with one of the best changeups in the minors, the crafty right-hander was on his way to his big league debut last season when a grade-3 lat strain derailed his season.  

The 23-year-old still pitched in 17 games, compiling a 6-2 record with a 2.62 ERA. He would pitch a total of 75.2 innings, striking out 109 and pitching to a 0.99 WHIP.

The one thing that should scare most batters coming into this season is that Rodriguez proclaimed after he came back from his last strain that his arm had “felt the best it has since high school.”

Looking to become an anchor in the O’s rotation, Gray-Rod will be another rookie looking to make his debut this season, more than likely immediately after spring training.

Though Elias might decide to give Rodriguez some extra time in Triple-A to stretch him out, the likelihood is that Rodriguez forces the Orioles to put him on the Opening Day roster out of the gate. 

Jackson Holliday INF – BA: No. 15 / Orioles: No. 3

The 2022 No. 1 overall draft pick, Jackson Holliday is a five-star talent who will only get better as he ages. The son of former big leaguer Matt Holliday, Jackson is the future of the Orioles at the shortstop position.

His first taste of pro ball saw Holliday play 20 games across two levels of the system. He would slash .297/.489/.422 while walking (25) twice as many times as striking out (12).

He would hit one long ball while collecting 18 more hits and driving in nine runs, scoring 14 more. The now-19-year-old also stole four bases in five attempts, showing how well-rounded his game truly is. 

Though 2023 will probably see Holliday start in Single-A Delmarva, you can be sure he will press his way upward, possibly even reaching Double-A Bowie by the end of the season if he stays healthy and consistently produces.

Colton Cowser OF – BA: No. 41 / Orioles: No. 4

The 2021 fifth overall pick out of Sam Houston, Colton Cowser, has become another gem found among the rocks. 

Cowser started last season in High-A Aberdeen before finishing in Triple-A Norfolk, placing him on the radar as the next big outfield prospect ready to make the big league jump.

With Kyle Stowers joining the big league club this year, Cowser will be pushing to make his way up, whether that comes due to a trade or injury, Cowser has already put himself on the doorstep to the bigs.

Across three levels, Cowser totaled 138 games, improving at each level. He slashed .278/.406/.469 on his way to becoming a 2022 Organizational All-Star. 

Cowser would collect 142 total hits, including 36 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs on his way to driving in 66 runs and scoring 114 more from primarily the leadoff spot. The soon-to-be 23-year-old also stole 18 bases in 21 attempts.

Playing all three outfield spots, Cowser would end up with a .972 fielding percentage, wracking up seven outfield assists. He played a majority of his time in center but may slot better as a corner outfielder when he gets the call.  

D.L. Hall LHP – BA: No. 75 / Orioles: No. 6

Forming a 1-2 punch in the minors with fellow pitching prospect Grayson Rodriguez, D.L. Hall worked his way to the big leagues last season.

The hard-throwing lefty, who can hit triple digits with his fastball, has made a name for himself by striking out batters at a rate of almost two per inning pitched.

Compiling an 11-20 record across 77 games (69 starts) during his minor league career, Hall will be looking to make an impact either in the rotation or the bullpen.

Hall has a career 3.40 ERA across 301.1 innings of work in his minors career. He has struck out 421 to just 172 walks while holding opponents to a .198 average.

The one knock on Hall has been command issues, as his high walk rate has led to his WHIP standing at 1.28. Control will be key to his success and will determine what route his career will take.

In his brief time in the majors last season, Hall would compile a 1-1 record across 11 games (one start) with a 5.93 ERA. He pitched 13.2 innings, striking out 19 to six walks, though opponents hit .298 against him.

Jordan Westburg INF – BA: No. 76 / Orioles: No. 5

For the first half of last season, Jordan Westburg was the Robin to Gunnar Henderson’s Batman, as the duo moved through the system together across two levels. With Henderson getting the call-up, many started to see exactly why Westburg was moving up as quickly as Henderson.

The 2020 MLB Draft’s 30th overall pick, Westburg entered the O’s farm system as another athletic shortstop. Moving through the system, he would learn to play three infield positions, excelling at each of them.

A strong arm, great range and above average instincts, Westburg was turning heads with his defense as much as his offense. He would play 138 games, compiling a .955 fielding percentage, with his strongest position being second base.

Westburg would slash .255/.365/.489 while hitting 27 home runs and driving in 106 runs. He would add 96 runs and steal 12 bases as well.

Connor Norby INF – BA: No. 93 / Orioles: No. 11

Connor Norby was part of the Cowser, Coby Mayo trio that moved up from High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie last year. Based on increased success, Norby would force his way up to Triple-A Norfolk by season’s end.

The hard-hitting second baseman would lead the Orioles’ minor league system with 29 home runs while slashing .279/.360/.526. He would drive in 73 runs, scoring 92 himself.

Of his 133 total hits, 42% of them would go for extra bases, as Norby displayed power to all fields with an aggressive yet strong knowledge of the strike zone.

In the field, Norby would carry a .976 fielding percentage playing second base, though he has played some shortstop and left field in the minors.

He has quick feet and a strong enough arm to make turning double plays as smooth as butter. With his strong hitting and defensive upside, he could be fighting with Westburg to force his way up to the majors this year.

Joey Ortiz INF – BA: No. 95 / Orioles: No. 17

Joey Ortiz was a fourth-round pick in 2019 draft, helping make a strong start to Mike Elias’ first draft process with the Orioles.

The slick-fielding shortstop has turned heads with his dynamic play and quick instincts in the field. What people failed to see at first, however, was how strong offensively Ortiz can be.

Across 137 games, Ortiz would slash .284/.349/.477, hitting 19 home runs and driving in 85 runs. An improved approach at the plate saw his strikeout to walk ratio come in at less than two to one, and his slugging percentage jumped almost .030 points.

In the field, Ortiz played short, second and third, as he developed into a versatile infielder, who would commit only nine errors on the season en route to a .990 fielding percentage.

With his improved offense and his already strong defense, the Orioles now have an influx of infield talent that any team would envy. Between Henderson, Holliday, Norby, Westburg and Ortiz, the Orioles have more options than they can fill.

The 2023 season will see at least three of these players make the big league roster to start the season, and this list doesn’t even include rookie outfielder Kyle Stowers.

How many more will graduate to the big leagues, and who will be the next prospect to reach the top spot for the Birds? The outlook is strong, and it will only make our organization stronger moving forward.

Which top prospect are you looking forward to seeing in 2023? Let us know in the comments below! And make sure to follow The Baltimore Battery on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #baltimorebattery when sharing our content!

Like Stephen’s content? Follow him on Twitter – @SRJHeckman

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