SARASOTA, Fla. — No matter what happens, no matter how general manager Mike Elias constructs the Orioles’ opening day roster, someone will be left out.

That much is a given. What is unknown is which players will make the starting 26-man roster that will jog down the orange carpet at Camden Yards in less than two weeks. The outfield, particularly, is the hardest nut to crack, because there are simply more players deserving of playing time than there is playing time to give.

Enter Kyle Stowers, whose resurgence this spring has only further complicated the outfield construction.

With three swings Sunday, Stowers continued an overwhelming success of a spring training. The 26-year-old blasted three home runs against the Detroit Tigers, all of which came against right-handed pitching, to bring his spring total to seven long balls.

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That kind of power is a major reason he’s intriguing for Baltimore. But he’s just one of a high-potential group all pushing for a place on the major league roster. Colton Cowser and Heston Kjerstad are highly ranked prospects in their own rights, and Ryan McKenna has largely held the fourth outfield role since 2021.

The power barrage from Stowers plants him firmly in the mix for a place on the opening day roster, and the possible configurations are ample.

A few of those possibilities:

  • Stowers and Cowser make the roster together. With five outfielders, one infielder (Ramón Urías? Jackson Holliday? Jorge Mateo?) would be the odd man out.
  • Stowers makes the roster as the fourth outfielder, and with Mateo’s increased focus on playing center, there’s backup for Cedric Mullins.
  • The Orioles could open the season with 14 position players and 12 pitchers, using built-in off days to rest pitchers while keeping five outfielders and the full complement of infielders.

Manager Brandon Hyde all but confirmed the third option won’t occur. Hyde said he didn’t think carrying 14 position players on opening day was likely, because he doesn’t want to run short of pitching early in the season.

Still, that would be the most obvious solution to Baltimore’s good problem. With 14 position players, the Orioles could hold Mullins, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Cowser and Stowers. They could also keep Urías, Holliday and Mateo. With five off days within the first month of the season, Baltimore could even opt for more of a four-man rotation for the time being.

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Scratching that possibility off the table, though, emphasizes the need for at least a short-term decision on how this outfield might look throughout 2024.

Mullins, Hays and Santander are expected to be the starters, although that could change in future years. Santander will be a free agent after this season. Mullins and Hays have one more year of arbitration eligibility for 2025.

Should the Orioles move on from those established veterans, Stowers, Cowser and Kjerstad are the heirs apparent. They’re playing like it this spring, with Stowers and Cowser particularly impressing.

The left-handed-hitting Stowers entered Sunday 7-for-15 against left-handed pitching with four homers; against righties, Stowers hit just 1-for-19 with nine strikeouts. But, against the Tigers, Stowers blasted off three times against right-handers. His average has risen to .297.

After Sunday’s game, Stowers told he felt the results would begin to show against righties; the plate appearances themselves were promising, despite the outs.

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“I’m fighting to make the team,” Stowers told the website. “I want to perform well now. I want to perform well during the season. Anytime I step on the field, I want to perform well.”

None of the Orioles’ top outfield prospects lit the league alight during their stays in the majors last year.

Stowers played just 14 games for Baltimore in 2023, hitting .067 before he was sent down. Injuries kept him from finding a rhythm the rest of the year. In a similarly small sample, Cowser hit .115 in 26 games last year. Kjerstad blasted two homers and hit .233 in 13 games.

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In previous seasons, Elias has avoided having a prospect serve as a bench player, because it might stifle his development. But, in a win-now situation, there could be more willingness to employ Cowser or Stowers in that role ahead of McKenna (who is a plus defender but doesn’t offer as much offensive upside).

Cowser could also have an advantage should Baltimore employ just one bench outfielder. Cowser has played more center field than Stowers. In 2023, Stowers played center just twice in the minors after playing it 44 times in 2022. Cowser, meanwhile, has featured in center often this spring.

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The 23-year-old Cowser is hitting .364 this spring with four homers. Kjerstad began to heat up last week and has his average up to .214 (Kjerstad is not a center field option).

“I hope everybody’s making it as difficult as possible,” Hyde said. “Kyle has swung the bat awesome this camp. Really happy for him, especially after kind of a tough year last year, dealing with a lot of things. To come into camp swinging the bat the way he is, that’s been amazing.”

There’s a logjam here.

The Orioles could send two or three of their outfield prospects back to Triple-A Norfolk, although there’s little left for them to prove at that level. They could seek a trade to bolster their pitching staff, using one of their major league-ready prospects as a centerpiece. They could roll with 14 position players or leave an infielder off the roster in favor of two bench outfielders.

All that awaits at the end of this final week of spring training. Much of it revolves around what Stowers has done — both Sunday, with three home runs, and all camp.