The Baltimore Orioles organization has had a lot to celebrate over the last few days. The O's beat the Boston Red Sox on Thursday for their 100th win of the season that win secured their first American League East division title since 2014.
On the same night, the Norfolk Tides beat the Durham Bulls to win the International League championship. While the O's do have some key players that were brought in via trades, free agency and waivers, much of the team's success this year can be attributed to the farm system.
The Orioles have had the top rated farm system in five consecutive rankings from MLB.com dating back to the 2021 midseason re-rankings. Several of the Birds top prospects have been promoted in that time, including top overall prospects Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman.
Other Baby Birds such as Jordan Westburg, Grayson Rodriguez and Colton Cowser joined them in the majors this season and had varying levels of success. Even though this generation of talent has made its way to Baltimore, the next generation is not lacking.
With the minor league seasons coming to a close, Baseball America has released its annual minor league all-star teams. They create a first and second team comprised of minor league players of all levels and this year's teams include four Orioles farmhands.
Four Orioles prospects make Baseball America All Star teams
Samuel Basallo (C)
Samuel Basallo was named the catcher on Baseball America's first team MiLB all-stars. Basallo had a great season that saw him climb three minor league levels, from Low-A Delmarva to Double-A Bowie. Having just recently turned 19 years of age, Basallo is already in his third year of professional baseball. After strong performances in 2021 and 2022 with the Orioles Dominican Summer League and Florida Coast League teams, Samuel really broke out this season.
He didn't bat lower than .299 at any level that he played in this season and finished with a .313/.402/.551 slash line combined across all three levels. Basallo demonstrated a combination of good power from the left side, hitting 26 doubles and 20 home runs, and solid speed hitting seven triples and stealing 12 bases. Samuel also posted career bests in fielding percentage (.984) and percentage of runners caught stealing (33%). For his efforts, Basallo was named the Carolina League's 2023 MVP.
Jackson Holliday (SS)
What an amazing year Jackson Holliday had. The expectations for the 2022 first overall draft pick were very high coming into the season and Holliday blew them out of the water. After a standout spring training, Jackson raced his way through the minor leagues playing in an incredible four levels in one season while becoming the top overall prospect in baseball.
Holliday demonstrated the potential to be a true five tool player. At just 19 years old, Holliday put together one of the best minor league seasons in recent memory, slashing a combined .323/.442/.499 with a .941 OPS. Jackson had 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 24 stolen bases and he walked 101 times, showing tremendous discipline and knowledge of the strike zone. The home run totals might not be what some people expected but Holliday made a lot of hard contact.
Holliday appears to be the Orioles shortstop of the future, but he also saw some time at second and third base this season, giving him some defensive versatility. To the surprise of no one Holliday was named Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year and the shortstop on their first team MiLB all-stars.
Heston Kjerstad (OF)
How can you not be romantic about the year Heston Kjerstad has had? Kjerstad finally had a full year of a clean bill of health and did everything that he possibly could with it. After winning the Arizona Fall League MVP, the 2020 second overall draft pick started the season with the Bowie Baysox. Kjerstad showed off his incredible power by hitting 11 homers in just 46 Double-A games before making the jump to Triple-A.
He barely slowed down with the Tides and finished his season with 29 doubles, eight triples, 21 home runs and 55 RBI's while slashing .303/.376/.528 with a .904 OPS in the minors. Heston also had a very good .982 fielding percentage in 65 games as an outfielder and a .986 fielding percentage in 38 games at first base.
The Orioles called him up in mid September to help the big club make its run at the AL East title, and Kjerstad did exactly that when he drove in an insurance run in the eighth inning on Thursday's division clinching 2-0 win over the Red Sox. Even without his major league statistics being considered, Kjerstad was more than deserving when he was named to the Baseball America first team MiLB all-stars.
Coby Mayo (3B)
Coby Mayo has big time power from the right side and fit nicely in the heart of the Baysox's and Tides' batting orders this season. He slashed .290/.410/.564 with 45 doubles, three triples, 29 homers and 99 RBI's while leading the Tides to their first league championship since 1985.
Mayo was great at the plate all season, but he saved his best for when it mattered most. He went 6-11 with two doubles, two home runs, five runs scored and seven RBI's in the championship series against the Durham Bulls, including a 4-4, three run, four RBI performance in the game three clincher where he was a triple shy of the cycle. Mayo is the Orioles #4 prospect and the #27 prospect in baseball and was recently named the Eastern League MVP prior to becoming a Baseball American second team MiLB all-star.
With so many of the Orioles top prospects making it to the major leagues and finding success, it is easy to say that the future for the Orioles is now, but clearly there is still plenty of future to look forward too. Congratulations to these Baby Birds and all of this year's MiLB all-stars.