4 Orioles prospects who deserve more love after hot start

These four Orioles prospects should be getting more attention.
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles v Pittsburgh Pirates / Christopher Pasatieri/GettyImages

In 2018, the Baltimore Orioles hired Mike Elias to be their general manager. He was tasked with rebuilding the team from the ground up in the same way the Houston Astros had done just a few years before. Elias held several positions in Houston's front office and was essential in their rebuild, so he knew the process. That process started by rebuilding the farm system so the 'Stros could develop the type of players they wanted for the system they were installing.

Fast forward to the 2021 season when, for the first time, MLB Pipeline named the Orioles farm system the top overall farm system in baseball in the midseason rankings -- Elias' gambit appeared to be working a second time. Players like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson (Elias' first two draft picks with the O's) were tearing up the minors, each on their way to being named the top overall prospect in the game. The most amazing part was that even as top prospect after top prospect graduated to the major league level, the Orioles managed to find a way to still hold the No. 1 farm system ranking, per MLB Pipeline.

Today, the Orioles' prospect pool is highlighted by four prospects in MLB's top 25, in Heston Kjerstad (No. 22), Coby Mayo (No. 20), Samuel Basallo (No. 14) and Jackson Holliday, yet another No. 1 overall prospect under Elias' watch. There are several other well-known O's prospects, like Connor Norby, Chayce McDermott, Cade Povich and Kyle Stowers, who have put up very good numbers in Triple-A for the Norfolk Tides (obviously, Stowers is currently with the Orioles). But you don't get to have the best farm system in baseball with just a handful of players, so here are four other Orioles prospects that should be getting more attention.

4 overlooked Baltimore Orioles prospects who deserve more attention

Creed Willems (C) - Aberdeen IronBirds

Catcher is one of the deepest positions on the Orioles roster. Rutschman is the best catcher in the game, James McCann is arguably the best backup catcher in baseball, and Basallo is the second-best catching prospect around, per MLB Pipeline, but Creed Willems is making a name for himself, too.

Just days away from his 21st birthday, Willems is already in his fourth year with the Orioles after being drafted in 2021 straight out of high school. It took Willems some time to adjust to professional pitching, but he began to catch up last season. Willems slashed .302/.442/.615 with a 1.056 OPS in 30 games with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds last season before being promoted to High-A Aberdeen, where again he needed some time to adjust.

This season, Willems got off to a very hot start and was named the South Atlantic League Player of the Month for April when he hit .299/.333/.642 with five doubles, six home runs and 21 RBI. He has cooled off a bit since then, but is still batting 54 points higher this season than he did in his time with Aberdeen last season, and the power continues to show. Willems hit nine home runs in his first 32 games this season, which equals the amount of homers he hit in 75 games with the IronBirds last season. Willems continues to make strides defensively, as his .991 fielding percentage this season is up from his career percentage. It's crazy to think that a player could be blocked all the way down in High-A, but with the Birds' depth at the position, Willems has quite a battle ahead of him.

Dylan Heid (P) - Bowie Baysox

If you haven't yet heard of Dylan Heid, I don't blame you. He was an 11th round draft pick in 2021 out of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, and the Orioles' farm system is full of high draft pick studs. Heid does not have the pedigree that some of the top prospects have, but he is having a notable level of success. Heid has gotten better each season he's been in Birdland, and is currently having a stellar season in Double-A.

Heid was a starter in college, but the Orioles immediately moved him into the bullpen. Heid posted a 2.58 ERA in 32 games last season split between Aberdeen and Bowie (though mostly in Aberdeen) and recorded four saves. This season, Heid has taken his game to another level and has been dominating Double-A hitters.

So far this season, Heid has a 1.62 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 16 innings. His career average of 12.9 K/9 in the minors, as well as the 14.4 K/9 he averaged in college, show that Heid has good strikeout ability. The IronBirds have regularly used Heid in high-leverage situations this season, including two more saves to bring his professional total to seven. Heid likely won't see the major leagues this season, but if he can continue with his current success, he should get a chance next season.

TT Bowens (1B) - Bowie Baysox

A teammate of Heid's in Bowie, TT Bowens is also making some noise in Double-A. After going undrafted and signing with the O's as a free agent in 2020, the chances of Bowens even making it this far were not great. In Bowens' defense, though, that draft was only five rounds, opening additional doors to some UDFAs who would've otherwise been selected.

Since then, Bowens has slowly climbed through the farm system and continues to inch closer to Baltimore. He hasn't had great success at any level of the minors, but the Orioles clearly saw something in him during the 2023 season he split between Delmarva, Aberdeen and Bowie, so they sent him to play in the Arizona Fall League to get some extra reps.

The extra work appears to have paid off, and Bowens is batting .297 through 31 games this season, which is 50 points higher than his career average. He leads all qualified Baysox in batting average, RBI (24) and doubles (10). The big right-hander is hitting well against everyone this season, and actually has better numbers against righties than he does lefties. Bowens primarily plays first base, but has been given a few games at third and in both corner outfield spots. In a recent interview, he acknowledged the gauntlet of talented players between him and the Orioles' first base spot, but he says that only makes him "...want to work harder."

Daniel Johnson (OF) - Norfolk Tides

The defending national champion Norfolk Tides have gotten a lot of attention this season. The amount of seemingly major league ready talent has people favorably comparing them to major league rosters. But one name that should be mentioned more is Daniel Johnson. To say that Johnson has a mountain of players between him and center field in Camden Yards is an understatement, but Johnson is putting up impressive numbers this season. He ranks among the Orioles' top prospects in average (fourth), home runs (t-fourth), RBI (fifth), steals (t-fourth), OBP (fifth) and SLG (third). Johnson's OBP is higher than Mayo's and Stowers', and his SLG is higher than Stowers, Norby and Holliday.

Johnson has limited major league experience, having played in 35 games for Cleveland between 2020-21. He's got above average speed to cover a lot of ground in the outfield and a plus arm. He's 28 years old and doing everything he can to get one more chance at playing in the majors. The Orioles took a chance on him when they signed him as a free agent this past offseason, and Johnson has given the O's everything they hoped for and more.