Will Coby Mayo earn a spot on the Orioles' Opening Day roster?

Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles
Pittsburgh Pirates v Baltimore Orioles / Mike Ehrmann/GettyImages

With Spring Training underway in Sarasota, there have been many players who have performed well and gotten the attention of Baltimore Orioles fans as the season approaches in less than a month. One of the players who has done well for himself early on is infield prospect Coby Mayo.

After a strong 2023 season and start to spring, does Mayo have a shot to break camp with the O's?

Sports fans love to react to small sample sizes in somewhat meaningless circumstances on social media. This certainly goes for many baseball and Orioles fans. Within the first week of spring training, there were narratives suggesting Jackson Holliday is in no way ready for the big leagues after relatively struggling in his first three games. However, that's now completely flipped after a two-hit performance against the Pirates on Thursday, which included a standup triple.

Simply put, baseball fans are tired after a long winter and look for anything to cling on to even though individual performances in spring training have little-to-no bearing on roster decisions that will be made later in March.

That being said, one player who has performed well in this small sample size is Coby Mayo. Of course, after each performance, the narrative on Mayo has quickly changed. He's went from a player who will almost certainly start the season in Triple-A with a mid-season call-up to a player who should simultaneously overtake Jorge Mateo, Ryan O'Hearn, and Ramon Urias and start the season in the bigs.

Spring training overreactions aside, does Mayo deserve a spot on the Opening Day roster? There's a legitimate argument to be made that he would provide more overall contributions to the team than some other contenders like Mateo or Urias. At this point, the Orioles are no longer concerned with having prospects gain unnecessary reps in the minors as they were with Adley Rutschman or Grayson Rodriguez. The most important thing to the organization is winning as many games as possible, and the Orioles will allow Mayo to compete for a spot on the roster and will give him that spot if they believe he's one of the 26 best candidates to help this team win its first World Series in more than 40 years.

Mayo's value as a prospect is certainly undeniable. Last month, MLB Pipeline released their preseason prospect rankings and Coby ranks fourth in a crowded Orioles farm system (as well as 30th in all of baseball). The biggest asset working for him is simply his strength and ability to rake. His two best tools are his arm (ranked 70 on the 20-80 scale) and power (65). In other words, he's one of the strongest prospects in baseball, which allows him to hold down third base and hit near the top of the order for a team that did not necessarily have a pure power hitter last season.

In the past week, prospect gurus have touted Mayo as the top power-hitting prospect in the Orioles organization, which bodes well for him on a team where many of his infield counterparts do not necessarily stand out in terms of home runs and slugging percentage. In 2023, Mayo hit 29 home runs across two levels while Mateo, Urias, and Jordan Westburg combined for 14 in the big leagues over nearly a full season each. On the same note, there are some concerns whether or not Mayo's power will translate to Camden Yards, especially as a right-handed hitter. It's well-documented how difficult overcoming the left field wall is for right-handed hitters as notorious AL East power hitter Aaron Judge has complained about the dimensions which have robbed him of multiple home runs.

The success of Ryan Mountcastle proves that right-handed power hitters can still rake at Camden Yards. After all, the bullpen area in the left-center field gap is still relatively close to home plate, and the extended fence also makes the corner by the bullpen an extra-base hit haven. All this being said, there is no doubt Mayo can hit for power at the major league level.

The biggest concern for him is his age and strikeout numbers. Mayo turned 22 in December, which stilll puts him on the young side for a prospect, and he's only played 164 games above Single-A. As is the case with many pure power hitters, strikeouts are an issue and a legitimate concern for his big-league development. In 140 games last season, he struck out 148 times for a 24.1% strikeout rate. In his minor-league career, he has 302 strikeouts in 297 games with a strikeout rate of 23.8%. This rate will likely only get higher as he climbs to the majors, where there are more power and deception pitchers.

All this being said, the upside with Mayo is clear. At his peak, he has the potential to be a 30+ home run hitter at the major league level and can complement Mountcastle as a right-handed power bat, which can make the lineup especially dangerous against southpaws. He offers much higher upside than players like Urias or Westburg, both of whom do a lot of things well but do not have the dynamic potential with any tools that Mayo has with his power and arm strength.

At this point, Mayo probably wouldn't provide more value than other internal infield options that have proven to be serviceable major leaguers. While the ceiling is higher for Mayo, the floor is also certainly much lower, which is a scary proposition for an Orioles team that will need to fight for every win possible. Mayo's future is bring, but he probably won't break camp with the Orioles. And that's likely good for the sake of his development.