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What’s blocking Colton Cowser’s MLB debut?

The Orioles promoted Jordan Westburg when the move made sense for the prospect and the organization. When will the blockers disappear for Colton Cowser?

MLB: Spring Training-Baltimore Orioles Photo Day Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles finally promoted Jordan Westburg this week.

Some would place a great deal of emphasis on the word finally, while others may view it as completely unnecessary. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Westburg chased this dream his entire life, so one can assume the word crossed his mind. Fans monitoring the batting line from Baltimore’s middle infield might agree, but I’m guessing Adam Frazier had a few other thoughts before this particular F-word.

There’s no denying that Westburg had to wait his turn. The Orioles possess plenty of middle infield depth, and certain scenarios kept the 24-year-old stashed in Norfolk before this week. Joey Ortiz beat Westburg to the 40-man roster. Terrin Vavra began the season with a head start. Jorge Mateo tore the cover off the ball in the month of April.

The Orioles promoted Westburg when the blockers disappeared. Vavra failed to make the most of an early opportunity, Mateo lost his touch at the dish, and Frazier hit .182 over his first 19 games in June. Baltimore waited for a pair of desirable matchups from opposing pitchers and pulled the trigger.

Mike Elias and Co. have always been particularly coy when it comes to promotions. The executive VP rarely speaks in absolutes and routinely declines to offer more information than necessary. The Orioles consider countless factors when it comes to player development, and the public has yet to detect a precise pattern with the decision making process.

While keeping that in mind, it seems unlikely that anyone can reasonably deduce when another top prospect might arrive in Baltimore. Can we predict when Colton Cowser will arrive? Nope. Can we speculate? Absolutely.

Cowser has slashed .323/.451/.527 over his first 52 games at Norfolk this season. Baltimore’s second ranked prospect has little to prove at Triple-A, but the Orioles have yet to make room for the Sam Houston State product.

Cowser may have missed his first opportunity due to some bad luck. Cowser found himself on the injured list when Cedric Mullins went down with a groin strain. Mullins has since returned, but another blocker emerged from completely outside of the organization.

The Orioles signed Aaron Hicks to a major league deal when Mullins went down, and the former Yankee has been a revelation. Hicks had slashed .284/.400/.537 in an Oriole uniform prior to last night’s contest against the Reds.

Hicks has looked the part of a big league center fielder, and the Yankees are paying his salary. It’s extremely difficult to picture the Orioles parting with the center fielder unless his play drops to an intolerable level.

Kyle Stowers failed to capitalize on an early opportunity, but Ryan McKenna has done his job so far this season. The 26-year-old has an option remaining, but Baltimore likes his defense and his bat against lefties. McKenna has demonstrated an ability to perform in a part time role and fits the mold of a fourth or fifth outfielder.

A lack of immediate playing time could impact the thought process with Cowser. The Texas native boasts a higher pedigree than guys like Vavra or Ortiz. Would the Orioles really promote Cowser if he’s barely going to play in July or August?

The Orioles are set with Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Mullins handling a majority of the outfield duties. Santander has played some first base, but a streaky Ryan O’Hearn and the looming return of Ryan Mountcastle make that far from simple. Ramón Urías will make the occasional start at first now with Westburg in the mix.

The Orioles infield stayed healthy, but the middle infield needed a spark. Mateo and Frazier fell off, and Baltimore never provided Ortiz a chance to play every day. The O’s were able to option Ortiz while keeping Mateo and Frazier on the roster, but it’s not completely analogous with Hicks and McKenna. McKenna holds an option, but he brings something to the table.

It’s completely reasonable to think Cowser can help this team right now, but would a part-time role help Cowser long term? How should the Orioles balance that question while chasing down an AL East title? Mike Elias has yet to tip his hand.