Gunnar Henderson remains the top prospect in baseball and seven other Orioles prospects feature in a dominant showing on Baseball America’s 2023 Top 100 rankings, released today. Baltimore’s eight prospects lead all Major League Baseball organizations, and the Orioles continue to find success out of their 2019 draft class.

A year after catcher Adley Rutschman led the rankings as the top minor leaguer, Henderson took his place and went on to earn Baseball America’s Minor League Player of the Year award. By retaining the top place entering 2023, the Orioles are the first team in Baseball America’s 33-year history of rankings to have consecutive top prospects from the same draft class; Rutschman was selected first overall in 2019 and Henderson was chosen in the second round.

That was executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias’ first draft in Baltimore. In many drafts, having a handful of players reach the major leagues is an accomplishment. To unearth two who appear to be fast-rising stars is nearly unheard of, and it represents the backbone of Baltimore’s rebuild.

Just once before has an organization produced back-to-back top prospects. The St. Louis Cardinals did so in 1999 and 2000 when it had J.D. Drew and Rick Ankiel reach the pinnacle, although they were drafted one year apart.

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The Orioles’ strong showing in the Top 100 rankings includes three players in the Top 15. After Henderson, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez comes in at No. 6 and shortstop Jackson Holliday — chosen first overall in 2022 — is No. 15. Seven of the eight prospects included have already reached Triple-A or higher, with Holliday the lone exception.

Rodriguez has a chance to make the opening day rotation. He’s coming off a season interrupted by a back injury, but in his 14 starts for Norfolk he held a 2.20 ERA.

Henderson maintained his rookie eligibility due to his late-August call-up, and that makes him a favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year award this year. After dominating in the minors (a .297 average in Double-A and Triple-A last season), he arrived in Baltimore and hit .259 with four homers in 34 games.

And Holliday, just 19, impressed in his limited taste of professional baseball after being drafted. He played 12 games for Low-A Delmarva before the season finished and worked 15 walks with a .238 average.

Elsewhere, the rankings have outfielder Colton Cowser (No. 41), left-hander DL Hall (75), infielder Jordan Westburg (No. 76), infielder Connor Norby (No. 93) and infielder Joey Ortiz (No. 95).

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Hall made his major league debut last season in a 3 2/3-inning start against the Tampa Bay Rays, then returned to the minors to develop as a reliever. Once he returned to the Orioles, he impressed in that role, striking out 13 batters in 10 innings. Hall aims for a rotation role coming out of spring training, although he could find himself as a bullpen piece once more.

Ortiz, a fourth-round selection in 2019, was added to the 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. He and Westburg are closest to the big leagues, with each raking for the Tides last season. Ortiz hit .346 in 26 games once he arrived in Norfolk and Westburg hit .274 in 91 games.

Cowser, a first-round pick in 2021, rose three levels to reach Triple-A by the end of last season. Norby did the same.

With those eight Top-100 prospects, the “elite talent pipeline” Elias promised to build in Baltimore is practically overflowing.

andy.kostka@thebaltimorebanner.com

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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