Are these recently promoted Orioles prospects here for the long haul?

Following a couple of injuries to key players, the Baltimore Orioles called up a pair of prospects to make their major league debuts during a four-game series in Toronto.

Are these prospects going to remain in Baltimore long-term, or are they simply stopgap injury replacements who will return to Norfolk once key pieces return?

Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles v Toronto Blue Jays / Mark Blinch/GettyImages

Monday, June 3, 2023 will go down as a day of highs and lows for the Norby family. That Sunday, Connor received a call that felt long overdue, as he was told he would join the Baltimore Orioles north of the border for a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays. The call occurred shortly after the O's regular second baseman, Jorge Mateo, suffered a concussion thanks to a fluke accident in the on-deck circle in a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Not only would this be Norby's major league debut, but he also said it was his first time leaving the United States. For his debut, Connor appeared ninth in the O's batting lineup and would play second base on the same day that his brother, Ethan, would try to navigate Connor's alma mater East Carolina past Evansville for a chance to play in the NCAA baseball super regional.

The East Carolina Pirates lost their elimination game to Evansville hours before Connor was set to make his debut, which had already put a slight damper on a magical day for the young Oriole. In the debut, Connor had a rather forgettable performance, as he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and was eventually taken out of the game for a defensive replacement with the O's holding on to a sizable lead. Fortunately, the woes did not continue, as Norby got his first MLB hit and home run in one swing a night later, crushing a hanging breaking ball into the Blue Jays bullpen.

Several days later, the Orioles called up their No. 9 prospect, Cade Povich, to make a spot start, owing to some concerns with the health of Kyle Bradish. Povich's arrival does shine light on issues the O's have had with the health of their rotation, following season-ending injuries to John Means and Tyler Wells, as well as a somewhat significant injury to Dean Kremer. The availability of Povich does prove that the Orioles have improved their starting rotation depth significantly over the past several years, as they can plug in a top prospect after a laundry list of injuries and still consider their rotation as a relative strength.

The call-ups of Norby and Povich do give fans reason to wonder whether or not these players are on the team long-term, or if they are simply stopgap options a la Joey Ortiz last season or Kyle Stowers in 2022. As of right now, it does not appear that either Mateo or Bradish will need long-term stints on the injured list, and the Orioles have competent major leaguers to fill in once these two players return. For example, the emergence of Cole Irvin and Albert Suarez make it difficult for anyone new to break into the rotation with five above-average MLB starters already set.

Will Orioles' Connor Norby and Cade Povich stick around long-term?

Norby is still young, as he will celebrate his 24th birthday on Saturday, but he has more than proven himself as a solid pure hitter at the Triple-A level. The question mark for him has always been his defensive ability, which will likely keep him tethered to second base, decreasing his versatility. Of course, this became a positive when Mateo went down, as he was an easy plug at the position, but Mateo is also having a career season, which means he likely returns to an everyday role as soon as he's healthy.

Norby has played 198 total games at the Triple-A level thus far and has donned an OPS well above .800 in each of his three seasons in Norfolk. In a full season last year, Norby hit .290/.359/.483 with 21 home runs while knocking in 92 runs and adding 10 stolen bases. So far in 2024, he is hitting .286/.374/.510 with nine homers and seven stolen bases. The power numbers are particularly notable, as his stature and position suggest he might not hit for a lot of power, but the home run numbers in Triple-A and his big blast on Tuesday in Toronto suggest otherwise.

The big question for Norby once Mateo returns is whether or not the O's will be content to part ways with Ramon Urías. Urías has an advantage over Norby in his positional versatility, as he is a Gold Glove third baseman and more than able to play shortstop and second base, as he has spent time at each position in past seasons. Despite sparse playing time, Urías is churning out a decent offensive season, with a .715 OPS and 108 OPS+ in 30 games and 79 plate appearances. His numbers are helped by three home runs, one of which came Monday after he replaced Norby in the field. However, FanGraphs suggests that his defense has significantly declined since his Gold Glove 2022 campaign, as he had a -6.2 defensive value last season and -1.3 so far this year.

The fact of the matter is that Urías will be let go at some point as more infield prospects make their way to Baltimore, and Norby may be the infielder that finally forces that decision if he can hit well during Mateo's absence.

As for Povich, the writing on the wall suggests that this is a true spot start for him, as he got called up with southpaw reliever Nick Vespi returning to Norfolk. Shortly before his start, Brandon Hyde noted that the start is a way to give Bradish an extra day rest after he struggled in his last start against the Rays. If Bradish is truly fully healthy, and the front office is being forthright, then the O's have five starters available and have no current need for a sixth, as long as each member stays healthy.

Povich has pitched quite well in Norfolk this season, which also spurred his call-up and debut. In 11 starts, he has a 5-1 record with a 3.18 ERA in 56.2 innings. Povich will also be the third lefty to make a start for the Orioles this season, with Irvin and Means being the other two. Povich has struck out 75 batters with only 21 walks, good for a 3.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He's also posted 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 3.3 walks in the same stretch. Simply put, Povich has proven that he is ready for the big league opportunity, but the real question is if the big leagues are ready for him.

In all, the O's have tough decisions to make, as they embark on what looks to be a long summer of pennant chase baseball, fighting with the Yankees for the top spot in yet another strong season in the AL East. At this point, the goal for the Orioles is to have their 26 best players on the roster at any given time and, despite Triple-A success, it is unclear whether or not either Norby or Povich is one of those 26 at this moment. The short-term ability to maintain a roster spot seems easier for Norby than Povich, as there is a short-term need at second base and an opportunity for him to act as a fifth infielder once Mateo returns.