Can the Baltimore Orioles find room on Opening Day roster for Kyle Stowers?

Kyle Stowers is pushing for a roster spot in a crowded Orioles outfield.
Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Baltimore Orioles Photo Day / Kevin C. Cox/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles have gotten off to a hot start in spring training, winning eight of their first 10 games. The O's are loaded with talent, and manager Brandon Hyde is going to have a lot of tough decisions to make when it comes to determining the Opening Day roster. Hyde has said the team has not determined whether they will carry four or five outfielders to start the season, and there are a few guys this spring who are making his decision very difficult in the best of ways.

The two players that were getting the most attention as the possible fourth and fifth outfielders are Heston Kjerstad and Colton Cowser. Both players debuted in the majors last season, but retained rookie status and are among the best prospects in baseball. Kjerstad in the Orioles' No. 5 prospect (No. 32 overall) and Cowser is the Orioles' No. 3 prospect (No. 19 overall). Kjerstad hasn't been able to get his bat going yet this spring, but he's shown good fielding ability, and after the way he hit the ball in the majors last season, it's hard to imagine him going back to Triple-A. On the other hand, Cowser has been crushing the ball this spring, and appears to have positioned himself well to take the fourth outfielder spot.

The surprise player in the mix is Kyle Stowers. Stowers made the Opening Day roster in 2023, but struggled in the limited action that he saw with the Birds. Not long after he was sent down to Triple-A, Stowers got injured and never seemed to fully recover, even after he was cleared to play. Looking to make up for last year's lost season, Stowers came to camp ready and has been reminding people why he made last year's Opening Day roster. So far this spring, Stowers has been as hot as anyone. He's slashing .333/.375/.933 with a 1.308 OPS, three home runs, five RBI and a stolen base.

Can surprise Kyle Stowers make Orioles' Opening Day roster in 2024?

Stowers begins this season stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one side, the O's have three strong outfield starters (Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander), and on the other side, he has a string of very good prospects headlined by Cowser and Kjerstad to outwork. Stowers recently turned 26 and is getting to the point of being too old for the minor leagues, especially in a system that is as stacked as the Orioles'. With outfield prospects like Enrique Bradfield Jr, Dylan Beavers and Jud Fabian climbing through the minors, this could be a make or break season for Stowers.

If Stowers is the odd man out of this group, he certainly is going down swinging, literally and metaphorically. The Orioles have been reluctant to trade their top prospects and Cowser and Kjerstad, at least in my opinion, are almost as untouchable as they come. Rumors surfaced over the offseason about teams that may be interested in some of the Orioles' starting outfielders, but the Orioles did not seem very interested in those offers. An unfortunate incident in the Orioles' game against the Minnesota Twins may also have provided an opening for Stowers.

Cedric Mullins was removed in the first inning of the game after advancing to second base with a right hamstring injury. Mullins had two stints on the IL last season, and if this injury causes him to miss time, that could allow Stowers to slide in as the team's fifth outfielder. Stowers would surely be thrilled to get back to Baltimore, but the Orioles will be back in the same situation of having too many major league quality players.

When healthy, Stowers has looked like he is major league ready, but timing is everything. I have no doubts that Kyle Stowers will be on a major league roster this season; I just don't know what roster that will be. In a perfect world, the O's would be able to keep all of these guys and get them the playing time they deserve, but thanks to the franchise's tremendous scouting and development, they've reached a point where they have too many mouths to feed. It's a great problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.