SARASOTA, Fla. — Ask Kyle Stowers the key to his spring training success at the plate, and the Orioles outfield prospect will shrug. There was no major offseason overhaul, Stowers insists. No reinvention of who he is or how he can produce.

Ask his hitting coaches, including Orioles offensive strategist Cody Asche, and it’s more of the same. The notes they give Stowers during batting practice are pared down, without the minutiae or tweaks that can prove more a burden at times than a boon for a hitter.

“He’s just being simple,” Asche said. “Simple, short to the ball. That’s probably the best answer. Just simple. Simple with his thoughts and having a clear mind at the plate, and then just believing in himself.”

Simplicity, then, is working for Stowers. It’s allowing him to brush off a disappointing 2023, and it’s prodding Stowers into Baltimore’s outfield picture once more as an opening day candidate.

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Early in the spring, Stowers has feasted by hitting three home runs off left-handers in one week. In doing so, Stowers is taking what is a much-believed baseball-ism — that left-on-left matchups can be the most difficult (and therefore avoided) — and proving that his mechanics can work against pitchers of either handedness.

With each blast off the bat of Stowers, the questions deepen. The outfield prospect has a difficult path in Baltimore, partly because of the established outfielders ahead of him and also because of the prospects around him.

But, to see him swing this spring, the perceived barriers between Stowers and a place on the opening day roster collapse, a baseball-sized hole blasted through them.

“I feel like I have a chance to be in the mix,” Stowers said. “There’s a lot of talented players, and there’s a lot of talented players all over the big leagues, so I think no matter where you are, you’re going to be competing. I just got to focus on my end of the deal and do what I can to have success.”

When projecting an opening day roster, the outfield is mostly set. There are Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander — three of the longest-serving Orioles remaining on the roster, each with their roles all but guaranteed.

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There is space for a fourth (or even fifth) outfielder. Ryan McKenna has featured as the main fourth outfielder since 2021. Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad, highly ranking prospects in their own rights, debuted last year and remain in the mix for roles in 2024.

Stowers, meanwhile, was largely out of the picture in 2023. He came up in 2022 and made a strong impression with a .253 average in 34 games, but Stowers played in just 14 games last season — with his last appearance occurring in May. And, when he did play, the results weren’t there. Stowers finished with an .067 average.

The rest of the season, Stowers posted a .245 average with an .875 on-base-plus-slugging percentage for Triple-A Norfolk. Even there, Stowers had trouble finding consistency. His campaign was interrupted twice when he suffered from right shoulder inflammation and a fractured nose while with Norfolk.

“Last year, obviously, didn’t go as well for me as an individual, between just staying healthy and performance in the big leagues,” Stowers said. “So I think there’s obviously a little bit — a chip on your shoulder is probably not the right phrase — but just a little bit more hunger, just a little more focus. I came in last year focused, but coming off the bad year, even a little bit more intensity.”

Stowers has produced in almost every spring training game in which he has played. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

This spring, Stowers has done damage in almost every game — even if he wasn’t starting. Stowers came off the bench twice this weekend and produced each time, with a homer Saturday and an RBI single Sunday. Both knocks came against lefties.

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Stowers’ early success against left-handers this spring isn’t an indication that he is destined to be a platoon-centric hitter, and Asche agrees. There’s no swing hole that would keep Stowers from producing against right-handers at a similar level as he has against left-handed pitchers. The opportunities so far in spring have coincidentally brought Stowers more to the plate against southpaws, but the simplified approach can carry over to either side.

“Staying on the ball, really, is the key against righties, too,” Stowers said.

A benefit, Stowers said, of facing so much left-handed pitching is that it forces a batter to be mindful of his mechanics. To stay on the baseball, he needs to keep his front shoulder and hip closed — avoiding the pitfall of flaring out early in the hopes of crushing a pull-side hit.

“If you get something out over the plate, you’re staying on the ball and staying closed, put a good swing on it like Kyle has a bunch of times this camp so far, you’re going to have some results,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I hope he stays right there.”

In Stowers’ limited major league experience, he hasn’t faced many left-handers (seven plate appearances compared to 124 against right-handers). The tiny sample, though, is promising. His lone hit against a lefty was a home run.

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At the Triple-A level in 2023, Stowers’ splits were more standard, with a .235 average against lefties compared to a .261 average against righties.

Stowers is at a stage of his career in which he’s more self-assured. When he first reached the majors in 2022, he wanted to keep that spot by performing at a high level. Then, early in 2023, Stowers was sent down and didn’t return the rest of the way.

“It’s really hard when you work your whole life to achieve something, you get to the major leagues, and you just want it so bad. You want it so bad, so bad, so bad,” said Asche, who played five seasons in the majors. “There’s a lot of new emotions, a lot of new environments. You see it with young kids all the time. I went through it myself as a player.”

The response from Stowers, though, has been strong. He channeled his energy into a positive outlet: returning to the fundamentals that helped him soar at Stanford and in the minors.

The results have followed, making a crowded outfield competition even more congested.

“He showed up to spring with an unbelievable attitude,” Asche said. “He put in a lot of good work, and he’s just ultimately confident in who he is and what he’s doing.”

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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