The Orioles surprised just about everyone when they selected Heston Kjerstad with the second overall pick in the 2020 draft. Unfortunately, Kjerstad has not had an opportunity to justify the pick quite yet, but another 2020 pick has exceeded expectations.
The Orioles drafted Jordan Westburg with the 30th pick that same year. The Mississippi State product entered Baltimore’s system with a power bat and rocket arm. No, he’s not the next Shohei Ohtani, but he does profile as a strong hitter from the left side of the infield.
Westburg made a name for himself at the Orioles 2020 instruction camp, and he joined Gunnar Henderson as one of the more hyped position players entering this past season.
Westburg began his first professional season at Low-A Delmarva and finished the year with Double-A Bowie. The Orioles have not been overly aggressive with prospects under Mike Elias, so quick promotions usually indicate strong performance. Westburg fit the bill.
The Texas native slashed a whopping .366/.484/.592 through his first 20 games at Delmarva. It’s never a guarantee that players will hit right away at any level, but Westburg quickly demonstrated that he needed more of a challenge.
The numbers came back to earth after his promotion to Aberdeen, but Westburg still slashed an impressive .286/.389/.469 over 62 games. He paired eight home runs with 16 doubles and drove in 41 runs.
His time at Aberdeen represented over half of his season, so it should serve as the best indicator of his approach. Westburg struck out 71 times in 285 plate appearances, but also worked 35 walks. He managed to steal nine bases in 13 attempts.
Baltimore promoted Westburg to Bowie half way through the month of August, and the jump required an adjustment period. It took the 22-year-old 12 games to hit his first Double-A home run, and 14 before his first multi-hit game. He did walk five times in his first three games, and did not appear to press after immediately failing to live up to his lofty season totals.
After a slow two weeks, Westburg slashed .269/.352/.577 and blasted five home runs in the month of September. He added five doubles, two triples and walked eight times in the final 21 games.
Westburg split time between shortstop and third base at all three levels. He’s shown an ability to stick at shortstop, but his strong arm makes him an asset at third base. The Orioles have Henderson and other infield prospects to keep in mind, and it’s always nice to have options.
Almost every future lineup projection has both Westburg and Henderson accounted for in some fashion. Henderson is over a full year younger, but the pair appeared to be linked in their development. Henderson played catchup after Westburg’s promotion, but the duo both started in Delmarva and finished the year in Bowie. Both players provide Orioles fans genuine reasons to be excited about the future.
MLB.com currently ranks Westburg as Baltimore’s sixth best prospect. He will likely begin 2022 with Bowie, but a quick promotion is obviously not out of the question. The Orioles may look for prolonged success at Triple-A, but a cup of coffee in September does not feel out of the question. The O’s could consider Westburg worthy of service time manipulation if he continues to perform next year, but that’s a conversation for another day.
The Orioles have Westburg working out at their fall instructional camp from now until November 20. He is joined by Henderson, Kjerstad, Coby Mayo, Joey Ortiz, Connor Norby and other infield prospects worth watching. Baltimore’s outfield remains a step ahead of the infield at the major league level, but the club has assembled a large amount of talent in the lower and mid-level minors.
Westburg’s strong numbers stole the show last year, but his ability to make adjustments at both Aberdeen and Bowie show what type of player he can be. He could struggle out of the gate with Norfolk, but it does not appear that anyone can keep Jordan Westburg down for long.
Previous 2021 Orioles prospect reviews: Ryan McKenna, Alexander Wells, Brnovich/Peek/Pinto, Diaz/Bannon, Tyler Nevin, Vavra/Ortiz/Servideo, Zac Lowther, DL Hall/Rom, Hernandez/Basallo, Jahmai Jones, Hudson Haskin, Bradish/Smith, Hernaiz/Mayo, Cowser/Norby, Adam Hall, Kyle Stowers, Mike Baumann
Tomorrow: Gunnar Henderson