Believe it or not, the 2023 MLB regular season is entering the home stretch. Not every team can share in the excitement of playoff races, but one thing all 30 teams and baseball fans everywhere can look forward to is preparing for the future.
September is just two weeks away and fans everywhere can get a glimpse of two of their favorite teams top prospects while the season reaches its culmination.
The Baltimore Orioles are firmly locked into a playoff race, not only with the division rival Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays, but also with Texas Rangers and Houston Astros for the number one overall seed in the playoffs. The O's have the challenge of adding two prospects to their roster that can help them stay competitive with the other top teams in the American League, while allowing some of the more established players some time to rest before the playoffs begin.
If any team is up to that challenge, it is the Orioles, who still possess the top farm system in baseball even after graduating two top overall prospects (Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson), a former top pitching prospect (Grayson Rodriguez) and another top 20 prospect (Jordan Westburg) in the last two years.
The Orioles were still playing competitive games at this time in 2022 when they called up DL Hall and Jesus Aguilar. Hall showed strong potential while the recently acquired Aguilar was a bust. The Birds have plenty of seemingly major league ready talent to choose from but let's make one thing clear, Jackson Holliday will not be called up this season.
As great as he is, the Orioles will not rush him along, the same way they did not rush Adley Rutschman and there is too much talent he would have to leapfrog to get to Baltimore. That being said, here are a few players the Orioles could call upon this season to help with their chase for the top seed in the American League.
Who could the Orioles call up when rosters expand in September?
DL Hall has been one of the organization's top pitching prospects for two years now. He has dealt with some health issues this season but appears to be healthy now and once again working out of the bullpen. Hall had success after his call-up in 2022 pitching 10.0 innings over 10 appearances and had an impressive 13 / 3 K/BB ratio. More importantly, Hall did not allow an earned run in eight of those appearances. With Cole Irvin stepping into the new six man rotation, Hall could fill the void as a lefty long man in the shortened O's bullpen.
After making his much-anticipated debut in July, Cowser failed to display the offensive prowess that made him a standout in Norfolk. It's not uncommon for players to struggle in their first experience in the major leagues, even Mickey Mantle got sent down once. Hopefully a few weeks down in Norfolk will help Cowser get things together and he can return to Camden Yards where we all know he belongs. The problem with recalling Cowser if finding him enough playing time. The outfield already has four worthy starters, though the O's have carried five outfielders for some stretches this season.
If the Orioles want to give Cowser some more time in Triple-A but still want to call up an outfielder, Heston Kjerstad could be their guy. Kjerstad has dominated offensively this season slashing .315/.385/.561 with a .946 OPS and 19 home runs across two levels this season. Defensively, he is a solid outfielder, and he has learned to play first base this season. Like Cowser, finding time in the outfield could be a problem and two guys named Ryan have first base covered. The Birds would also have to make room on the 40 man roster for him.
Oriole fans got a chance to see Joey Ortiz earlier this season. Ortiz put on a show defensively making spectacular plays at second, third and shortstop. While he didn't produce much offensively in his brief time with the Orioles, his minor league numbers (.347/.399/.547 and .547 OPS) would indicate that he is ready for another chance.
He is a good contact hitter with some power and gold glove potential. Recalling Ortiz would probably push Jorge Mateo to a pinch running specialist for the remainder of the season and give Ortiz a chance to beat Mateo out for a spot on the postseason roster.
Maybe not the exciting choice that fans want to see, but Joey Krehbiel could be a smart pick for the Orioles. With the bullpen down to seven arms instead of the usual eight, at least one if not both of the call ups should be bullpen help. The impending return of Tyler Wells and the season debut of Orioles ace John Means will likely push Irvin back into his long relief role. Krehbiel was used frequently in 2022 with success and he could be an arm the Orioles lean on down the stretch to keep other pitchers in the bullpen rested.
With the battle for the AL's top seed likely to come down to the last few games of the season, it is unlikely that manager Brandon Hyde makes any kind of drastic change to what has worked so well all season.
It is fun to see some of the younger players get a chance with the big club and some players have made huge impacts on teams after getting the September call. Any of the players here could be a game changer for the Birds in the right circumstances and help them finish the season strong.