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Orioles minor league week in review: Norfolk clinches playoffs, Mayo crushes more dingers

The Tides won their first-half league title, while red-hot slugger Coby Mayo continued to put up a case to join their roster.

Baltimore Orioles Photo Day
Coby Mayo hits baseballs a long way.
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

In case you’ve somehow forgotten about the nonstop excellence that is the Orioles’ farm system, this week provided a good reminder of just how much talent the O’s have stockpiled. Infield prospect Jordan Westburg made his long-awaited big league debut after tearing up Triple-A for the better part of a year, while Jackson Holliday and Heston Kjerstad were named to the All-Star Futures Game — fresh off Holliday being anointed by one source as the #1 prospect in baseball.

If you thought Westburg’s debut was exciting, he’s far from the last heavily hyped prospect who will be arriving in Baltimore this year or next. Let’s review last week’s action in the O’s minors, with a particular focus on Camden Chat’s top 30 prospects.

Triple-A Norfolk Tides

  • Last week: 3-3 at Nashville Sounds (Brewers)
  • Coming week: vs. Charlotte Knights (35-40, White Sox)
  • Final first-half record: 48-26, first place (8.5 game lead) in International League East

The Norfolk Tides are headed to the playoffs! A first-half league pennant was inevitable for what’s been arguably the most dominant team in the minors, and the Tides made it official with a win on Wednesday. The first half ended on Sunday with the Tides 4.5 games better than the next closest team, the Iowa Cubs of the West division. Norfolk will host the second-half league winner in the best-of-three League Championship Series starting Sept. 26.

Yes, that was Cedric Mullins and Ryan Mountcastle, both on rehab assignments, living it up during the festivities. Hey, why not? They both did their time at Norfolk earlier in their careers, and Mountcastle was the International League MVP in 2019. Ryan has yet to shake off the rust this time around, going 0-for-14 in four games so far.

Speaking of rehab, Dillon Tate and Mychal Givens are each in the midst of their second rehab stints, and neither looks quite ready to return to the O’s bullpen. Givens has allowed eight baserunners in four innings, while Tate has been torched for five runs and has walked six batters in just 2.1 frames. Grayson Rodriguez (#2 prospect, since graduated), another erstwhile Oriole trying to work his way back to the bigs, didn’t particularly impress this week, lasting just 4.1 innings and giving up four hits and three walks. In happier news, right-hander Justin Armbruester (#22), just brought up from Double-A, delivered a fantastic Norfolk debut, pitching five scoreless innings and striking out seven.

The only Tides hitter to play all six games was Heston Kjerstad (#10), who had a somewhat quiet week with five hits and one homer. Newly promoted infielder César Prieto (#23 tied) acclimated himself well in his first week in Triple-A, hitting .316 with a home run. And Jordan Westburg (#6) finished his Triple-A career — hopefully permanently — with six hits and a homer, giving him a season line of .295/.372/.567 and an organization-leading 18 homers and 54 RBIs in 67 games. He did everything he possibly could to prove he’s ready for the big leagues, and now is his chance.

Other notable prospects:

  • OF Colton Cowser (#5): I’d have put money that Cowser would make his MLB debut before Westburg, but the outfielder will have to keep waiting after languishing through a 2-for-16 week, though he did knock his ninth homer.
  • IF Connor Norby (#9): Norby is becoming a bit overlooked in the infield prospect picture, but after a solid 5-for-15 week, he’s batting .283 with a .779 OPS this year.
  • OF Hudson Haskin (#17): The snakebitten outfielder landed back on the IL with left hamstring tightness, the same injury that sidelined him for a month earlier this year.
  • LHP Drew Rom (#18 tied): Poor Rom was blasted for six runs in five innings this week, and now has a 7.71 ERA and .984 opponents’ OPS in seven games since the O’s optioned him back to Norfolk May 11. I wish he’d gotten to pitch during his two-day stint with the Birds, because it sure doesn’t appear he’ll be returning to the bigs anytime soon.

Norfolk season stats

Double-A Bowie Baysox

  • Last week: 4-3 at Altoona Curve (Pirates)
  • Coming week: vs. Somerset Patriots (42-26, Yankees)
  • Final first-half record: 31-38, last place (6.5 GB) in Eastern League Southwest

Bowie’s winning week included a 15-1 thumping of the Curve, but the Baysox closed out the first half in the division cellar. Better luck in the second half, which begins Wednesday. They might have a good starting point with their offense, which erupted for a league-leading 12 home runs this week, including three more by the most scalding hot hitter in the organization, Coby Mayo (#8 prospect).

Mayo blistered an eye-popping eight extra-base hits this week — three homers and five doubles — and also drew six walks, giving him a cool 1.563 OPS for the series. Mayo has six homers in his last 11 games. Overall he’s slashing .313/.432/.609 with 14 dingers in 67 games. And by the way, he has only four at-bats this year against a pitcher younger than him. It’s fair to wonder why he didn’t get promoted to Norfolk last week alongside Prieto and Armbruester. Now that Westburg has vacated Triple-A, it seems there’s an opening on the left side of the Norfolk infield. Just sayin’.

Jud Fabian (#13) put on a power display in his first week at Double-A, with three of his six hits going out of the ballpark. Fabian, the #67 overall pick in the 2022 draft, now has 12 homers this year between two levels. Also, shout-out to outfielder Billy Cook, who had 11 hits and two homers for Bowie this week, second only to Mayo.

Seven different pitchers made starts for the Baysox this week, but the two worst performances were turned in by the two highest ranked prospects, Cade Povich (#12) and Chayce McDermott (#18 tied). McDermott couldn’t get out of the first inning in his outing, throwing 33 pitches, allowing two hits and two runs, and retiring only two batters. Povich, meanwhile, followed up last week’s seven-inning, 13-K performance with a 2.2-inning dud this time, allowing six baserunners and three runs.

The rotation’s top performer was right-hander Connor Gillispie, a ninth-round pick in 2019. On Wednesday, Gillispie gave up a leadoff homer to Pirates #7 prospect Liover Peguero...and then was flawless, retiring the final 18 batters he faced. Gillispie, 25, has a 2.74 ERA in 13 games this year. Fellow righties Alex Pham and Carlos Tavera each worked five innings without allowing an earned run. It was Pham’s Double-A debut after he tore up High-A (2.45 ERA, 13.3 K/9 in 12 games).

Bowie season stats

High-A Aberdeen IronBirds

  • Last week: 3-2 at Wilmington Blue Rocks (Nationals)
  • Coming week: vs. Winston-Salem Dash (36-30, White Sox)
  • Final first-half record: 32-32, fourth place (6.0 GB) in South Atlantic League North
  • Overall season record: 34-33

The halfway point for the High-A season came on Thursday, smack dab in the middle of Aberdeen’s six-game series in Wilmington, and the IronBirds finished exactly .500. Even without big-name prospects on the pitching staff, the IronBirds’ hurlers (3.79 team ERA, third-best in the South Atlantic League) have outpaced the offense (.695 team OPS, third-worst) so far.

This week’s star pitcher was right-hander Kyle Virbitsky, who flirted with perfection — retiring the first 16 batters he faced Sunday — before a cheap infield single provided the Blue Rocks their only baserunner. Virbitsky settled for six scoreless innings, striking out eight. The 24-year-old, acquired as part of the Cole Irvin/Darell Hernaiz trade, has a 0.92 ERA in four June outings.

A number of IronBirds hitters had productive weeks, including Dylan Beavers (#11 prospect), Max Wagner (#16), and Frederick Bencosme (#20), who combined for 21 hits, eight for extra bases. Slugging catcher Creed Willems homered twice. Jackson Holliday — just named the #1 prospect in the majors by MLB Pipeline! — reached base nine times. He’s trying to work his way out of a slump that has seen him OPS only .704 in June. Something tells me he’ll be fine.

Aberdeen season stats

Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds

  • Last week: 3-2 vs. Augusta GreenJackets (Braves)
  • Coming week: at Lynchburg Hillcats (33-35, Guardians)
  • Final first-half record: 28-37, last place (11.0 GB) in Carolina League North
  • Overall season record: 30-38

Like Aberdeen, Delmarva’s first half came to a close on Thursday, and the Shorebirds are probably happy to turn the page. They finished in last place with a 28-37 mark. But by winning two of the final three games of the series, they’re off to a 2-1 start in the second half. Ride that wave all the way to the playoffs, baby!

The Shorebirds’ offense has just one player among the Orioles’ top 20 prospects, catcher Samuel Basallo (#14), who’s batting .301 with an .845 OPS this year after an eight-hit, two-homer week. He also drew five walks. Outfielder Trendon Craig also collected eight hits and drove in six, but infielder Carter Young (#27 tied) cooled off after an early June hot streak, going just 2-for-17 this week.

On the mound, righty Zach Showalter (no relation to Buck) made his debut in full-season ball. The 19-year-old, an overslot 11th-rounder in last year’s draft, gave up one run and five hits in 3.2 innings.

Delmarva season stats

Florida Complex League and Dominican Summer League

A couple of rehabbing O’s pitchers are currently toiling for the short-season FCL Orioles, the most notable being DL Hall (#4), who was sent to the FCL to continue building up strength after his early-season velocity in Norfolk was down. He has yet to pitch in a game. Yesterday, Kyle Brnovich — once part of the Dylan Bundy trade with the Angels — made his first appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery in May 2022. He threw two scoreless innings and struck out two.

FCL Orioles season stats

DSL Orioles Orange season stats

DSL Orioles Black season stats


Last week, Coby Mayo’s scalding hot streak led him to his first win in the player of the week poll with 48% of the vote. Povich fell 51 votes shy of becoming the first pitcher to win. Perhaps one day a hurler will get the nod, but I suppose it’s hard for them to put up the kind of stats in one game per week that a hitter can accomplish in six. Previous winners include Westburg (three times), Holliday (twice) and Norby, Kjerstad, Cowser, Lewin Díaz, and Fabian once apiece.

Two pitchers are on this week’s poll, but can either one take down the defending champ Mayo?


Who was the Orioles minor league player of the week for 6/20-6/25?

This poll is closed

  • 83%
    Coby Mayo, Bowie (12 H, 5 DO, 3 HR, 1.563 OPS)
    (309 votes)
  • 4%
    Connor Gillispie, Bowie (6 IP, 1 H, retired 18 in a row)
    (18 votes)
  • 11%
    Kyle Virbitsky, Aberdeen (6 IP, 1 H, 8 K, perfect game into sixth)
    (42 votes)
369 votes total Vote Now