Baltimore Orioles: Assessing the Success of Cowser, Mayo, and Norby

A Baltimore Orioles hat is pictured with Franklin batting gloves during the game. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
A Baltimore Orioles hat is pictured with Franklin batting gloves during the game. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

The Baltimore Orioles made some roster moves within their farm system Monday afternoon when they announced that three of their top-hitting prospects would be promoted from High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie.

Colton Cowser, Coby Mayo, and Connor Norby. Each of the three hitters is a recent draft pick, as Cowser and Norby were the top two picks in last year’s draft for the Baltimore Orioles, and Mayo was a fourth-round pick in the 2020 draft. Cowser and Norby each was drafted out of division I colleges, while Mayo was a high school player out of Florida.

Each player has had success this season in Aberdeen, which justified their promotion to the Bowie Baysox, where each player will be one step closer to the big leagues. At the same time, the Orioles await a fresh arrival of draftees in mid-July.

With the Orioles about to finish their first entire winning month in almost five years and the success of prospects such as DL Hall, Gunnar Henderson, and Jordan Westburg in Triple-A Norfolk, there has been less attention on the lower levels of the Orioles farm system but with that said there has been some success in those lower levels as well.

These teams and players need to have success as the O’s gain organizational depth going into the next few seasons. Let’s look at each of these players individually as we examine their success thus far in the 2022 season and how they could fit in the Orioles’ future plans.

Colton Cowser

In typical Mike Elias fashion, the Orioles chose an under-slot player in the first round of the 2021 draft with outfielder Colton Cowser out of Sam Houston State University. It was the third straight draft that the Orioles selected a college position player with their first pick and the second straight that the Baltimore Orioles selected a college outfielder.

With Heston Kjerstad being established second overall in 2020. Early in his professional career, Cowser has been successful at the plate as he finished the 2021 season with a .982 OPS in 32 games between the Orioles Florida Complex team in Sarasota and the Delmarva Shorebirds.

Cowser has spent the entire 2022 season prior to his promotion to Bowie with the Aberdeen Ironbirds, and while he has still been successful, he has had some struggles at the plate with high strikeout numbers and a relative lack of power.

Baltimore Orioles: Assessing the Success of Cowser, Mayo, and Norby

Cowser hit sixteen home runs in 55 games as a junior at Sam Houston State but has only hit four home runs in 62 games so far this season. Of course, the adjustment from metal bats to wood bats is difficult for most hitters to jump from college to pro ball, which is shown in a lack of home run power. What Cowser has lacked in power, he has made up for on the basepaths as he was 16-of-17 in stolen base attempts this season in Aberdeen and was able to beat out two triples.

As mentioned earlier, the strikeouts have been an issue as he struck out 79 times in 278 plate appearances for a strikeout rate of 28.4%. As with strikeouts, Cowser has drawn his fair share of walks as he has walked 45 times for an impressive walk rate of 16.2%, which allows him to have a .385 on-base percentage despite a mediocre .258 batting average.

Defensively, Cowser can play all three outfield positions but has played mostly in center field for the Ironbirds, with 41 of his 62 games starting there. Cowser has all the tools available to be a successful big-league player with speed, plate discipline, power, and defense and will have the opportunity to contribute to the Baltimore Orioles in the next couple of seasons.

With Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins patrolling the outfield currently, it seems likely that Cowser will take a corner outfield spot once he makes his MLB debut and might need to compete with Kjerstad or even Druw Jones for an outfield spot long-term if the O’s decide to go with Jones number one overall in July.

Coby Mayo

Despite being drafted before Cowser and Norby, Mayo is the youngest of the trio that got promoted Monday as he will not turn 21 until December. Mayo was a high school pick out of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida that the O’s were able to afford after going under slot with Kjerstad and several other picks in the 2020 draft.

Mayo is not as versatile defensively as the other two as he has stuck entirely as a third baseman this season and has committed nine errors this season for a fielding percentage of .929. Offensively, power has not been an issue as Mayo has hit 13 home runs in 63 games this season and has a slugging percentage of .479.

Baltimore Orioles: Assessing the Success of Cowser, Mayo, and Norby

Strikeouts have also been an issue for him, but those struggles have not been as pronounced as they have been with Cowser. Mayo has struck out 60 times in 270 plate appearances for a 22.2% strikeout rate and a 9.3% walk rate. His slash line is .250/.326/.479 for a solid .805 OPS.

As with Cowser, Mayo is having a solid season in the minors as his main strength is his power hitting. With many other minor league infielders, it may be hard for Mayo to find a position long-term with the Orioles, but, as has been proven with Ryan Mountcastle, if he continues to mash, then the Baltimore Orioles will find a way to insert him into the lineup regularly.

Connor Norby

Norby has had the slowest offensive start of the trio to his professional career after a prolific junior season for the East Carolina baseball team in 2021. That season, he had a slash line of .415/.484/.659 with an absurd 1.143 OPS for the Pirates out of the American Athletic Conference.

However, he has struggled with Aberdeen this season with a slash line of .237/.311/.425. He has eight home runs in 48 games for the Ironbirds, seven doubles, and two triples, and has drawn a decent walk rate at 8.6% and a strikeout rate of 23.9%.

Norby is versatile as he can switch around the infield and play either corner outfield spot if needed. He has started entirely at second base for the Ironbirds but has occasionally played shortstop and left field in defensive switches.

The offense will need to improve, but with the potential, he showed at a high-level Division I college in East Carolina, it is certainly possible that this improvement will occur, and Norby could find himself on the next great Orioles team.

Ultimately, all three players have shown flashes of brilliance with the Ironbirds this season. Still, each player will need to find more consistency at the plate now that they are in the upper levels of the minors and only two promotions away from Baltimore.

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Each player figures to be a part of the Baltimore Orioles’ future as long as they continue to hit in the minors and can ultimately find success at the plate in the big leagues.