This underrated player is making Orioles' future infield crunch even tougher

As it turns out, the trick to this young star taking the next step was to just hit the ball harder.
Milwaukee Brewers v Baltimore Orioles
Milwaukee Brewers v Baltimore Orioles / G Fiume/GettyImages

It is easy to get overlooked on this Baltimore Orioles' roster. Between budding stars like Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, along with all of the noise around the arrivals of Jackson Holliday and Colton Cowser, there is just so much about this Orioles team to take in and appreciate. However, one guy that is very quickly making a name for himself in a big way is Jordan Westburg.

Westburg's 2024 season didn't get off to a great start when the curtain rose which, again, isn't all that strange for a young hitter. After all, everyone's getting used to the speed of games that actually count, while pitchers doing their damndest to get outs while the hitters are still behind.

However, Westburg has really turned things up a notch ever since Holliday was promoted to the big leagues, and now sports a .302/.373/.547 slash line, thanks largely to him hitting the crap out of the ball.

The Orioles' decision regarding who to keep long-term from their prospect-laden infield picture just got even tougher.

Jordan Westburg has taken a huge step forward in 2024 when it comes to impacting the ball

Westburg is a known commodity and, all things considered, his first look at the big leagues in 2023 did not go badly at all, as he put up a .715 OPS last season. However, his power output was lacking, as he hit just 22 extra-base hits, including three homers in 228 plate appearances, in '23. Given the strength of the Orioles' position player prospect depth, there were some that wondered if Westburg might end up getting squeezed out in favor of other guys if he couldn't step up.

Fortunately for everyone involved, Westburg has taken that next step, and it is largely due to the fact that he is just hitting the ball with more authority this year. In 2023, Westburg ranked respectably in Hard-Hit % and Sweet-Spot %, but his average exit velocity of 90.2 mph was only above average, and he struggled when it came to barreling pitches up at just 6.5%. Fast forward to 2024 and the picture has changed dramatically, as he is way above average to elite in exit velocity (94.1 mph), barrel % (11.6), hard-hit % (60.5), and expected slugging (.559).

Once you combine those gains in the quality of Westburg's contact, along with a decrease in whiffs and a slight increase in line drives, the results speak for themselves. Now, betting on Westburg to maintain a .920 OPS all year long is a big ask, but everything points to his increased power output being very real, which explains why he has already matched his home run total from 2023 just 15 games into this season. If he can come close to keeping this up, he isn't going to be overlooked for much longer.

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