There have been many Orioles prospects performing highly so far during the 2023 minor league season. As we near the two-month mark, here are a couple of players at each level of the system who have stood out the most among the best organization in baseball.
Standouts at each level of the Baltimore Orioles farm system
Delmarva Shorebirds (Low-A)
Although he was just promoted to Aberdeen this week, Willems was swinging the bat with the best of them during his tenure in Delmarva. Willems led the Shorebirds with his eight home runs and was hitting at a career-best .302. At just 19-years-old, the former eighth-round pick was boasting the best power numbers in the Carolina league with his 1.057 OPS. His on base percentage also ranked second in the league at .442. Defensively, Willems played both first base and catcher, throwing out 38% of base-stealers and never making an error across 79 innings at first base. The left-handed batter is already off to a strong start with the IronBirds blasting a home run on Wednesday.
One of the highest-touted international signings in the organization’s history, Basallo has been very impressive early on this season. The No. 10 ranked prospect in the system per MLB.com leads the Shorebirds with his 37 RBI and .300 AVG, his RBI total also leading the Carolina League. With 48 hits across 40 games, the 18-year-old is hitting for power too with 11 doubles, two triples and four long balls. Scouted as a catcher, Basallo has logged over 100 innings already behind the plate as well as first base and has thrown out a third of base-stealers while posting a career high in fielding percentage at .989 behind the dish.
Nunez, a native of the Dominican Republic, has been nothing short of impressive since arriving in pro ball last August. Coming to the organization via the Jorge Lopez deal with the Twins at last year’s trade deadline, Nunez has stood out the most among the Shorebirds pitching staff. Appearing in nine games with seven starts so far this season, the right-hander has posted a 3.55 ERA with 46 punch outs over 38 IP. Opposing batters are hitting just .191 against Nunez, ranking fourth in the Carolina League, and he leads the Shorebirds with a 1.24 WHIP.
Aberdeen IronBirds (High-A)
I cannot talk about the IronBirds without mentioning the No. 1 prospect in the Orioles farm system. Holliday, who also ranks as the third best prospect in all of baseball, has performed well above anyone’s expectations in this young 2023 season. The No. 1 overall pick in 2022 has hit well wherever the Orioles have assigned him. Starting the season in Delmarva, it only took the shortstop 14 games to get promoted to Aberdeen after hitting .396 with a 1.182 OPS. Now with the IronBirds, the 19-year-old has not taken his foot off the gas, slashing .359 with four triples, four home runs and even stealing nine bases. However the .500 OBP might be among his most impressive statistics.
Jake Lyons, Alex Pham & Jean Pinto
I couldn’t pick just one pitcher from the Ironbirds pitching staff as Lyons, Pham and Pinto have all posted equally impressive numbers. The trio comprises three of the top six ERA leaders in the South Atlantic League. Lyons, a 22nd-round pick in 2019, has posted a 2.56 ERA across 31.2 IP, and has recorded 47 strikeouts. Pham, a pitcher from the University of San Francisco, has pitched to the fourth best ERA in the league at 2.21 while also leading the IronBirds with his 1.15 WHIP. Pinto, who arrived in the organization via the Jose Iglesias deal with the Angels in 2020, has pitched to a 2.58 ERA. The Venezulea-native also ranks second in the league with his 59 strikeouts across 38.1 IP. Aberdeen pitching coach Austin Meine deserves credit for these pitchers' success and I expect to see the trio featured on the Orioles Top 30 List in the near future.
Bowie Baysox (AA)
Cesar Prieto & Heston Kjerstad
Both Prieto and Kjerstad were strong cases for the standout position player in Bowie so far, so why not include each of them. Prieto, the international-signee from Cuba, has posted an Eastern League-leading .353 AVG with 4 home runs. The No. 16 ranked prospect in the system has also drawn more walks than strikeouts en route to his .400 OBP. Kjerstad, the second overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft, leads the Baysox with his 10 home runs and 26 runs. The 50th ranked prospect in baseball has tallied nine doubles and three triples to go along with the long balls resulting in an impressive .959 OPS.
Possibly overshadowed by other top 30 prospects on the Bowie staff in Cade Povich (No. 11) and Chayce McDermott (No. 17), Armbruester (No. 30) has demonstrated an impressive knack for dominating opposing batters across his nine starts. The 12th-round pick in 2021 leads the Eastern League in ERA at 1.40 and also boasts the third best WHIP at 1.09. Now having logged over 100 innings in double-A, the 2022 MiLB.com Organization All-Star could be on his way to triple-A rather soon.
Norfolk Tides (AAA)
Jordan Westburg & Josh Lester
Westburg, the No. 3 organizational prospect, and Lester, an offseason signing from Detroit, are each atop the hitting leaderboards on this year’s Norfolk team. They both share the team lead with 14 home runs and are second in the International League in that department. Lester leads the team with 49 RBI followed closely by Westburg at 46. Westburg, who the Orioles selected 30th overall in 2020, is slashing at a .316 clip with a .998 OPS. Meanwhile, Lester, who has crushed 61 home runs the last two seasons, has posted a .286 AVG with a .906 OPS. Colton Cowser, the Orioles first-round pick in 2021 made a solid case for this article as a two-time International League Player of the Week but was placed on the injured list on May 20.
The Orioles claimed Vallimont off waivers from the Twins last May. His introduction to triple-A last season was a little rocky, but in 2023, he seems to have found a groove. His 3.61 ERA and 1.23 WHIP rank sixth and fifth in the International League respectively. The right-hander has started as well as come out of the bullpen this season recording 48 strikeouts over 42.1 IP. The 26-year-old’s knack for missing bats has slotted him at third in the league in opponent batting average at .209 and has also helped him earn two saves. He could be an under-the-radar player to watch when the Orioles look to promote arms down the stretch.