clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Coby Mayo, the most interesting man in the minors

One of the Orioles’ fastest rising prospects, Mayo has transformed himself from a power-only to well-rounded hitter. Now to figure out where to play him.

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

We all know that Mike Elias and his front office don’t place a premium on drafting high school players. After all, in the most recent draft, Elias & Co. drafted only two high schoolers out of 20 picks. However, when they do dip into the high school ranks, they certainly swing for the fences and often knock it out of the park.

The first big high school success story came in the development of Gunnar Henderson from the 42nd pick in the 2019 draft to the No. 1 prospect in all of baseball. Jackson Holliday is the latest to carry the banner for Orioles high school selections. However, perhaps no former prep prospect has seen bigger gains this season than infielder Coby Mayo.

Mayo entered the Orioles organization much less heralded than Holliday or Henderson. A fourth round pick in the shortened 2020 draft, the Orioles clearly saw something in Mayo early that compelled them to buy him out of his commitment to University of Florida. The O’s paid more than $1M above slot value to sign Mayo out of Stoneman Douglas HS—the same high school that produced All-Star Anthony Rizzo.

It’s not hard to find reasons to be enamored with Mayo as a prospect. The infielder towers over most opposition at 6’5” and has plenty of power to match that imposing frame. Coming out of high school,’s scouts rated his power tool a 55 on the 20-80 scale and his arm strength at a 65. Those explosive tools have only continued to grow as Mayo grows into his frame. His power now grades out at 60 while his arm is bumped up to 70.

To put those numbers into context, here are some fellow prospects who have similar ratings. Among MLB’s Top 100 prospects, none has a higher power rating than Mayo, and the O’s prospect is on par with highly touted prospects like Jackson Chourio, James Wood and Druw Jones. When it comes to arm strength, only three other prospects have a 70+ rated arm and only catcher Henry Davis (former No. 1 overall pick) and outfielder Andy Pages have both a 70+ rated arm and 60 rated power.

The concern with Mayo coming out of high school was whether he would make enough contact to make use of his prodigious power. After all, young power hitters have a tendency to swing for the fences too much instead of focusing on making solid contact—often leading to low averages and hit strikeout rates.

Mayo’s 2022 season didn’t do a lot to dispel those concerns. Mayo hit .247 in a season split mostly between High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie, while also striking out 114 times in 388 ABs (29.4% K rate). Sure the extra base hits were there—as Mayo produced 19 HRs and 20 doubles—but the 20-year-old still looked like more of a project than someone knocking on the door of the major leagues.

Mayo has used the 2023 season to completely change the narrative surrounding him as a prospect. As Jon Meoli detailed in his report on Mayo for the Baltimore Banner, the now 21-year-old altered both his approach at the plate and mentality to become one of the most feared hitters in the minor leagues. Mayo is now driving the ball to all fields, being more selective in which pitches he swings at and in many ways allowing the game to come to him. It’s paying dividends on the stat sheet too, as he was hitting .307 with a 1.026 OPS at Bowie before his call up to Triple-A Norfolk last week.

There’s still a fair amount of swing and miss in Mayo’s game. However, the fact that he’s raised his walk rate from 9% last season to almost 15% this season speaks to the improved plate discipline Mayo has showcased throughout the season. The fact that Mayo now stands poised for a potential big league debut in his age-22 season is a testament to both his work ethic and another shining example of the Orioles’ success with player development.

There is a potential problem, however, as to where to put Mayo once he arrives in Baltimore. Up until now, he’s played almost 95% of his minor league defensive innings at 3B. However, with the hot corner seen as Henderson’s long term home (especially once the O’s promote Holliday) and Mayo rating as just an average defender, it doesn’t seem like Mayo will be a major league third baseman.

That likely leaves first base and the corner outfield as his most natural defensive homes. Both of these come with their own complications though. Outfield—with Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander and Colton Cowser already on the MLB roster and Heston Kjerstad on the doorstep of promotion—is perhaps the deepest position group in the Orioles organization. If Mayo isn’t going to play third, though, sticking him in right field at Camden Yards and whichever corner is smaller on the road would allow the O’s to make the best use of his elite throwing arm.

As I previously documented, first base is the position that seems to be most up in the air going forward. Mayo’s offensive profile seems like a natural fit for first base and he could make a similar defensive transition to the one Vladimir Guerrero Jr. made when the Blue Jays called him up. And yet, sticking one of the best arms in baseball at a position where he’ll hardly ever make use of that arm seems like wasting one of Mayo’s greatest talents. Ultimately, Mayo may not have a true defensive home, as Brandon Hyde could choose to move him around the diamond just to keep his bat in the lineup.

What is certain about Mayo, though, is that he possesses the same sort of limitless upside that enamored all of Birdland during Henderson’s meteoric rise through the minors. In Mayo’s original draft profile, painted Mayo as a prospect who just might become the next Austin Riley. Now, the Braves’ All-Star third baseman no longer seems like an unlikely ceiling for Mayo, but more like his MLB doppelganger. That’s definitely something all of us can get excited about as we patiently await Mayo’s arrival in Baltimore.


What position will Coby Mayo play for the Orioles?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    (59 votes)
  • 37%
    (312 votes)
  • 33%
    (277 votes)
  • 4%
    (36 votes)
  • 17%
    Super Utility
    (143 votes)
827 votes total Vote Now