This season will be remembered for Baltimore’s surprise run, but it will also mark the year that the prospects arrived in Birdland. Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, DL Hall and Kyle Stowers led an impressive class of rookies making their way to Camden Yards.
Each player added something different to the team. Now, with the season winding down, it’s fair to wonder whether any other prospects could make their major league debut this season.
Henderson forced his way to Baltimore with a dominant season that started at Double-A Bowie. The 21-year-old leapfrogged several infield prospects to become the youngest player in the majors. Did Henderson’s promotion eliminate the possibility of another infielder getting the call?
Many expected Jordan Westburg to get the nod before Henderson prior to this season. Westburg, Baltimore’s fifth ranked prospect, has slashed .256/.346/.493 in 69 games at Norfolk. The Orioles promoted Henderson and Westburg to Triple-A at the beginning of June, but many thought the 23-year-old’s age could get him to the big leagues before Henderson.
Like Henderson, Westburg has moved around the diamond this season. Westburg has split time between second, short and third base. The Orioles have a crowded infield, but they will need to make room for Westburg next season. The presence of Rougned Odor and Ramón Urías eliminate any need, but Baltimore could option Terrin Vavra or designate Jesús Aguilar for assignment.
Grayson Rodriguez seemed to be minutes from a promotion before suffering a Grade 2 lat strain June 1. Baltimore’s top pitching prospect made his second rehab start for Bowie last night and should rejoin Norfolk soon. Rodriguez appeared to have checked every box before suffering the injury, but nobody could blame Baltimore for pushing his debut to 2023.
It remains to be seen how many innings the organization will give him in September. The Orioles will protect him from the Rule 5 draft this winter, and Rodriguez will be favored to break camp with the team in 2023. The 22-year-old has expressed a desire to pitch in the big leagues this season, but the Orioles could view it as an unnecessary risk. Rodriguez would retain his rookie eligibility if given a cup of coffee this year.
Westburg and Rodriguez represent the highest ranked candidates to debut this season. Colton Cowser, Baltimore’s fourth best prospect, just received a promotion to Norfolk last week. Cowser started the year with Aberdeen, but a sizzling second half has brought him one level from the bigs.
The Orioles have plenty of depth in the outfield with Stowers and Ryan McKenna backing up the starting trio. Yusniel Diaz remains on the 40-man roster after debuting earlier this season, and DJ Stewart could be used if the club needed additional depth.
Cowser will not be Rule-5 eligible this offseason, so Baltimore does not need to add him to the 40-man until ready to promote him. Even a cup of coffee feels out of the question, but Cowser has put himself in a position for an early debut next season.
Joey Ortiz, the Orioles 19th-best prospect, joined Cowser in Triple-A at the end of August. Ortiz has always received high marks defensively, but he slashed .355/.425/.634 in his final 47 games with the Tides. Ortiz impressed by going 10-for-25 in his first six games at Norfolk, but he likely sits behind Westburg in line for a promotion.
The Orioles claimed Chris Vallimont on waivers back in May. The former Twins prospect is on the 40-man roster, but likely ranks below Mike Baumann and Matt Harvey for any potential spot starts. The 25-year-old holds a 5.36 ERA and 1.356 WHIP in 12 appearances for Norfolk.
Drew Rom and Kyle Brnovich will need protected prior to the Rule 5 draft but neither appears set to debut this season. Brnovich underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year.
The third catcher was once a September staple, but reduced roster expansion has made the position increasingly rare. The Orioles will not need another catcher unless Adley Rutschman or Robinson Chirinos suffers an injury. Anthony Bemboom and Jacob Nottingham are both on the 7-day injured list, so Cody Roberts or Ramon Rodriguez could potentially sneak their way into a game if the perfect storm hit.
A healthy September would likely prevent any additional big league debuts this season, but Grayson Rodriguez could be the exception if he gets his wish.