2 Baltimore Orioles players who've earned more reps, 1 who hasn't

Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox
Baltimore Orioles v Boston Red Sox / Paul Rutherford/GettyImages

After sweeping the Red Sox in a three-game series at Fenway, the Baltimore Orioles have got to be feeling good. There was really no contest in Game 1; the Red Sox got an early run on the board but then disappeared through the rest of the game. Games 2 and 3 were a bit more contentious, but the O's came back in late innings to take both, sending them to second place in the division as they return to Camden Yards.

The team looks great almost from top to bottom, but there have been a few surprising standouts who should either get more comfortable making starts or gear up for a major league season debut, as well as underperformers who should be prepared to sit a little more.

2 Orioles players who have earned more reps in 2024

Colton Cowser

Cowser has been on a tear since April began, but he was on another level during the Orioles' last game against the Red Sox on Thursday. In what was originally back-and-forth game that necessitated extra innings, the O's put up a six-spot in the 10th to slam the door shut on the Red Sox. That rally included a three-run home run from Cowser, his second of the night after homering in the fifth (his first MLB home run) to get the Orioles on the board. He also hit a double for 10 total bases on the night.

Not only that — on Wednesday, he leapt and went chest-first into the Green Monster at Fenway to steal a hit from Romy Gonzalez and keep Red Sox hitters from threatening in the bottom of the eighth in a 7-5 game.

His 26 appearances last season were underwhelming; he hit .115/.286/.148 and was sent back to Triple-A in August. He broke out in spring training this year and made the Opening Day roster, but he didn't get his first start until April 2, when he went 2-3 with an RBI double. He hasn't slowed down since, and his efforts got him the nod for the start in left in all three games against Boston, a difficult spot for any fielder in front of the monster. At the conclusion of that series, he was hitting .458/.462/.917, so we should definitely expect to see him more often.

Heston Kjerstad

The Orioles organization is so incredibly stacked that they have five major league-ready prospects in their top 10 who could be picked out and called up at a moment's notice, and more even further down the list. Jackson Holliday, MLB's No. 1 prospect overall, got his big debut on Wednesday, but Coby Mayo, Heston Kjerstad, and Connor Norby are still down in Triple-A, waiting for their turns.

Kjerstad might be the first to get it of the three, as he's been absolutely blasting his way through the season so far. He's hitting .388/.483/.837 down in Norfolk, with 19 hits in 12 games, six home runs, and stunning 25 RBI already. In the major leagues, Austin Hays has been struggling (more on that later), with only two hits in 11 games after the conclusion of the Red Sox series, so he could be vulnerable to the prospects creeping up behind him.

Like Cowser, Kjerstad got his first shot at the majors last year, but he fared better than Cowser with a very nice .467 SLG from the back half of September through the last game of the regular season. If Hays can't shape up, Kjerstad could be getting another shot soon.

1 Orioles player who hasn't earned additional chances in 2024

Austin Hays

We gave ourselves away, but Hays' bat has been dead in the first games of the season. It's resulted in a disappointing and potentially dangerous follow up to his great 2023, when he hit .275/.325/.444 over 144 games, was tied with Gunnar Henderson for third in hits on the year and second only to Anthony Santander in doubles, and got his first All-Star nod. With Kjerstad right on his heels and hopeful for another shot at the major leagues, Hays could be in real trouble if he can't get hot.

He still has one minor league option, but it seems unlikely that the Orioles would send him back to Triple-A outright after he's spent three seasons being a solid starter for him. Instead, he could see himself getting kicked back to the bench with another player sent down to accommodate Kjerstad (or even Norby, who's been tearing it up in Triple-A as well).

Hays is in a precarious position because the Orioles will probably want to give more of their much-hyped prospects a nod at some point this season, and Hays could potentially be vulnerable for stints throughout the year, even if he does improve.