Predicting which Norfolk Tides star will get called up to the Orioles first

The Norfolk Tides are full of major league ready players, but which player will get there first this season?
Oriole Park at Camden Yards
Oriole Park at Camden Yards / Kirby Lee/GettyImages
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You may have heard by now that the Baltimore Orioles organization is full of talent. The Orioles themselves received numerous awards following the 2023 season, and are off to another good start to the 2024 season. Their Triple-A affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, also received several awards on their way to a national championship last season, and are off to an even better start in the new campaign

The Tides opened with a 5-1 start and are leading the International League in almost every major offensive category by a mile. The offense is led by five players that either have major league experience or appear ready for the majors. The fact that Jackson Holliday, Connor Norby, Heston Kjerstad, Coby Mayo and Kyle Stowers are all on the same minor-league team just doesn't seem fair, and the statistics are there to prove that unfairness.

There's no doubt that all five of these players will be in the major leagues at some point this season, but who is the most likely to be called up to the Orioles first? Here's my humble projection at the order in which these guys are likely to be called.

Predicting the order of Orioles top prospects' MLB call-ups in 2024

5: Connor Norby

It pains me to put Norby at No. 5 because he should have been on the Opening Day roster. The O's have several players that can play second base, but none who've really locked down the position. Jordan Westburg spent plenty of time there last season, but with Gunnar Henderson moving to shortstop, Westburg has split time between second and third base. Jorge Mateo and Tony Kemp have also played second base this season, and Ramon Urías has played there in the past, but none of those three are projected to be long-term starters.

Norby is major-league ready and would have been perfect for the everyday second base position to open the year. He's a former top 100 prospect who's now spent parts of three season with the Tides. At the time of this writing, Norby has appeared in 153 games and accumulated 707 plate appearances at the Triple-A level. In that time, he's slashed .299/.365/.513 including 45 doubles, 28 homers and 108 RBI, not to mention a franchise-record 164 hits for the Tides last season. He's off to another great start this season.

Defensively, Norby is solid at second base and has also shown the ability to play the outfield corner spots capably. The only reason Norby is not in Baltimore right now is because of a guy named Jackson Holliday (who you'll see later on this list) blocking his spot. There just isn't a spot for Norby on the Orioles where he can be an everyday player for the foreseeable future.

4: Coby Mayo

Mayo got a chance to show the Orioles coaching staff what he can do during spring training and he took full advantage of his opportunity. In 23 spring games, Mayo slashed .366/.448/.560 with a 1.008 OPS, seven doubles, one home run and 11 RBI. There was some talk about Mayo forcing his way onto the Opening Day roster even with a crowded Orioles infield.

As great as Mayo was during the spring, there was good reason to start him in Triple-A. Mayo had limited experience in Triple-A before this season, but he's gotten off to an incredible start in 2024 and his bat appears to be major-league ready. His defense, on the other hand, could use some fine tuning. A career .905 fielding percentage at third base is not ideal, and he's already made three errors in his first15 chances at the hot corner to start this season.

Mayo began getting playing time at first base last season, and he's performed much better there. His path to Baltimore appears to be similar to Ryan Mountcastle's, who was also a great hitting prospect that struggled defensively on the left side of the infield before settling at first base. Mayo's defense is keeping him from heading to Baltimore at third base, and Mountcastle has first base locked down in Baltimore. Additionally, Mayo is losing Triple-A chances to work at first base to Kjerstad, who's appeared at first in three games for the Tides this season compared to Mayo's one.

3: Kyle Stowers

After making the Orioles' Opening Day roster in 2023, Stowers struggled in his limited playing time and was sent down to Norfolk, where he spent the majority of the remainder of the season on the IL. Stowers came to camp healthy this spring and showed why he deserved another chance. Stowers blasted seven home runs in 45 spring plate appearances and had fans cheering for him to crack his second Opening Day roster.

When the news broke that the slugger would begin the season in Triple-A, Stowers was obviously disappointed, but he showed up in Norfolk ready to prove why he should be in Baltimore instead. Six games into the regular season, Stowers ranks either first or second in the International League leaders in hits (11), home runs (5) and RBI (15). He began the season slashing .367/.387/.967 with a ridiculous 1.354 OPS.

Stowers has the advantage of being able to play all three outfield positions but isn't known for his defense. With Baltimore boasting some of baseball's best defenders in the outfield, who also happen to be good offensive players, Stowers is going to have a tough time breaking through without an injury or trade.

2: Heston Kjerstad

Kjerstad made his major league debut in September last season and made quite an impression. The Orioles thought so highly of him that they included him on their postseason roster. It seemed like Kjerstad's spot on the Opening Day roster was his to lose, and Colton Cowser seemingly snatched it away from him.

Kjerstad, who's not known for his defense, looked great in the outfield in spring training, making several highlight reel catches, but his bat let him down. He did have 13 hits, but only one double and no home runs. The Orioles decided to start Kjerstad in Triple-A and he's responded very well. He's first or second in the International League in runs (11), hits (16), home runs (5) and RBI (21) while slashing an unbelievable .571/.581/1.124 with an eye popping 1.795 OPS. His batting average, slugging percentage and OPS also lead the league.

The main thing keeping Kjerstad out of Baltimore right now is Ryan O'Hearn. Kjerstad has a ton of potential and a much higher ceiling than O'Hearn, but they're very similar players. With the Birds overflowing with talent, it is difficult to find a spot for two players with such similar qualities.

1: Jackson Holliday

The most likely player to get called to Baltimore first is the best player in the minor leagues. Holliday had an incredible spring training for the second consecutive season. He slashed .311/.364/.600 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and six RBI while stealing two bases in two attempts. It was widely believed that the 20-year-old phenom would be the Orioles' Opening Day second baseman, and the decision to start him in Triple-A was a shockwave heard throughout baseball.

Holliday responded well to the decision and set out to prove to the Orioles that he's ready for the show. He homered in his first plate appearance of the season (off a left-hander) and leads the International League through one week in both runs (14) and doubles (4) while slashing .393/.471/.750 with a 1.221 OPS. There's no question that Holliday is ready offensively, and defensively, he has shown that he's quite capable of handling second base. Without an established star in front of Holliday, there's no reason he shouldn't be in Baltimore right now.

The Orioles have their reasons for starting these players in the minors this season. It should be noted that April 5 is the 16th day of the Orioles' season, and so any players the Orioles call up to debut from this point forth will not be able to earn a year of service time. Whether or not that factors into the Orioles' decisions is unknown, but it seems fair to expect to see at least one of these guys called to Baltimore very soon.

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