Baltimore Orioles: Which Prospects Could We See in Baltimore in 2022?

Jul 16, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; American League Futures third baseman Gunnar Henderson (2) tosses his bat after drawing a walk in the first inning of the All Star-Futures Game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 16, 2022; Los Angeles, CA, USA; American League Futures third baseman Gunnar Henderson (2) tosses his bat after drawing a walk in the first inning of the All Star-Futures Game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports /

Over the weekend, Kyle Stowers was recalled by the Baltimore Orioles to replace struggling Brett Phillips on the roster and in the lineup against mostly right-handed arms. A few weeks earlier, Terrin Vavra made his big league debut for the Orioles and has split time at designated hitter, second base, and the two corner outfield spots and has hit fairly well in his time in Baltimore.

Left-handed pitcher DL Hall also made his long-anticipated debut on August 13 in a start against the Rays in which he struggled giving up 5 earned runs in 3.2 innings pitched in an O’s loss. With the season winding down, the Orioles sit only 2.5 games out of a playoff spot and need as much help as they can on the Major-League roster to make up that deficit. That said, with the trade deadline past us, the O’s must look internally for any extra help and they have options with arguably the best farm system in baseball and top-tier prospects on the cusp of the majors. As I mentioned, Hall, Stowers, and Vavra have all made their debuts over the past couple of months but there are even more options such as Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, and Jordan Westburg that fans have been anticipating.

Gunnar Henderson

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past four months, you know that Henderson has been a hot topic in Birdland as he was recently named the number one prospect in MLB by Baseball America and ranks only behind Francisco Alvarez of the Mets on MLBPipeline. Many people believe that he could be called up today (August 23rd) to make his MLB debut against the White Sox at Camden Yards. This move makes plenty of sense for reasons that Josh Linn wrote about in a recent article here at Birds Watcher. One of the reasons that Josh mentioned is that the Orioles will be able to retain Gunnar for an extra year of team control if the call-up happens any time during the rest of the regular season but he will only be eligible for the postseason roster if he makes his debut before September 1st. As of my writing this (10:30 AM EST), the Orioles have not announced a move involving Henderson but many rumors have speculated that he will join the team this week.

Three Baltimore Orioles prospects who could help the club down the stretch

His call-up has seemed imminent for some time because of the success he has had in the minors this year. Especially impressive considering his age as he just turned 21 fifty-five days ago. Between Bowie and Norfolk, Gunnar has slashed .298/.416/.542 in 105 games and 471 plate appearances with 19 home runs and 49 extra-base hits. While he has played mostly at shortstop in the minors, there are questions about whether or not he will stick there at the MLB level or if he will move to third base. Right now, Jorge Mateo has proven himself as the best shortstop on the roster and likely will not be replaced any time soon. Mateo has played great defensively and has been a wizard on the basepaths. His offense has also improved as he has shown improved power numbers and hit a clutch three-run double in the eighth inning of the Little League Classic on Sunday. However, there have been offensive struggles from the two other infield positions left of first base, mostly occupied by Rougned Odor at second and Ramon Urias at third. Odor has struggled mightily at times but has given the Orioles some clutch hits and bats from the left side which gives him an advantage over the righty Urias. Ramon has hit well at times but has mostly been a league-average hitter with a 102 OPS+. He has hit 13 home runs in only ninety games but his lack of walks has been an issue as he has an on-base percentage below .300 despite a .252 batting average. If Gunnar does make the jump, both Odor and Urias have proven themselves as replaceable in the lineup.

Grayson Rodriguez

As well as Henderson, Rodriguez is a consensus top-ten prospect and top pitching prospect in MLB. Unfortunately for him, Grayson went down with a lat injury earlier this season that has kept him out for several months and has likely delayed his MLB debut. Before the injury, he pitched great in Norfolk with a 2.09 ERA in 56 innings and a 5.71 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has not pitched since June 1st against the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp and has just recently begun pitching in live-action situations.

According to Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun, Rodriguez is expected to come off the 60-day injured list sometime in September although it is unlikely that he would earn a promotion to the big club at that point. The Orioles have had a much-improved starting rotation this season but could still use as much help as they can get with John Means out until at least May or June of next season.

Will the Baltimore Orioles turn to their loaded minor league system for help in September?

According to Pipeline, Rodriguez has an elite fastball-changeup combination with an above-average slider and above-average command of the strike zone. His curveball is his weakest pitch but as long as he recovers smoothly from his injury, he should be a top-of-the-rotation piece for years to come. Since we are not likely to see him in 2022, the current rotation will need to continue to step up if the Orioles want to propel themselves into the postseason.

Jordan Westburg

As far as shortstop prospects are concerned, the O’s have two high-level players in Henderson and Jackson Holliday in their farm system and a third prospect that many people do not think about as much as the other two in Jordan Westburg. Westburg was the second pick of the O’s during the 2020 draft and has played well throughout his MiLB career and at Mississippi State. While he does not have the star potential of Henderson and Holliday, Jordan has had solid numbers this season with a .257/.342/.481 slash line between Bowie and Norfolk with 19 home runs and 51 extra-base hits. He is another guy who has played well despite his age as he turned 23 in February and is 3.4 years younger than the average Triple-A player. He is another guy who will probably finish the season in Norfolk but could certainly see a call-up in September if the O’s feel he is ready to make his debut.

Westburg will likely be the first player from a draft that produced the likes of Heston Kjerstad and Coby Mayo to make his big league debut. He is currently the fifth-ranked prospect in the O’s system according to Pipeline and grades average or better in every aspect of his game. He is more likely than Henderson to stick at short but he will probably be moved to second with Gunnar at third and Mateo at short when the time comes.

Other Prospects of Note

The aforementioned players are the most notable prospects who could be on their way to a debut. However, there are other players in Norfolk who have either made their debuts or are lower-level prospects that we could see in the near future. As I mentioned earlier, the Orioles do not have much rotational depth so an injury or two could see some new names in Baltimore.

22nd-ranked prospect Drew Rom recently got the promotion to Triple-A although he seems to be ahead of schedule at 22 years old and an ETA of 2024. Rom was a fourth-round pick out of high school in 2018 and has pitched well in the minors. His career ERA is 3.26 although it has not been as strong this season at 4.81 in 18 starts in Bowie. He is the third-best southpaw prospect behind Hall and Cade Povich according to Pipeline. His best pitch is his slider which grades as above-average but it is nearly impossible that we see him in Baltimore this season.

Players who have made their debuts that we could see once again are DJ Stewart and Alexander Wells. Stewart has been hitting well in Triple-A although, barring an injury, it is unlikely he could find consistent playing time with the O’s. Wells is on a rehab assignment currently and could provide left-handed depth in the pen with Keegan Akin struggling and Nick Vespi and Cionel Perez taking on most of the high-leverage workload.

Next. Baby Birds Weekly Recap (8/16-8/22). dark