Almost as soon as Connor Norby joined the Orioles to replace Jorge Mateo, who is on the seven-day concussion injury list, he went from a player who deserved an opportunity in the majors to one whose role there was already up for debate.

While considering how much he’d play, or how long he’d be with the club, I couldn’t help but wonder how much all that ultimately mattered.

For all the prospect talent the Orioles have graduated to the majors in recent years, only a handful — Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, most notably — have played regularly early on and had the chance to play through struggles while doing so. Jordan Westburg falls into that category as well.

Others, such as Jackson Holliday this year and Colton Cowser in 2023, played often but had short leashes, while corner outfield sluggers Kyle Stowers and Heston Kjerstad have played more sporadically in stints on the major league roster.

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It’s natural to want to see these talented young players in the Orioles’ lineup as much as possible. I’m as guilty of that as anyone, even with my affinity for and attachment to some of the players they’d be replacing. In many cases, it’s probably a conversation worth having whether the newcomers would add more than the players they’d be replacing.

What’s less clear — and often comes down to the eye of the beholder — is the impact it has on the players themselves. Allowing that everyone wants to play every day in the big leagues and has to adjust to not playing when that is their role, it’s hard to find many real drawbacks if a player gets sporadic major league playing time and struggles early. And that’s from any number of perspectives — developmental, analytical or scouting.

Manager Brandon Hyde’s perspective counts, too. He is responsible for the on-field decisions that cause the Orioles to win or lose on a nightly basis. Considering how often they win, the choices around young players aren’t an active detriment to the team’s near-term ambitions.

The more major league experience a young player gets, the more they can learn from it. In truth, any experience at that point can be helpful. While the Orioles have been quick to move worthy hitters through the minors and to Triple-A over the years, the player development apparatus has little control over when that major league debut comes. What they can control is how the players work and prepare in advance of it, and then, how they address the work required if a player is sent back to Norfolk.

There comes a time in any player’s development — Norby’s especially — when it’s valuable to learn what it’s like in the majors and add new teaching points to the repertoire. He spent his time in Norfolk this year refining his game plans against all types of pitchers — and there are a lot in Triple-A — but nothing can replicate consistent major league stuff. As Holliday can attest, that adjustment can be drastic and inform plenty of the work done after the fact.

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Cowser also benefited from extended time at Triple-A after his major league stint, working on refining his attack plans and being more aggressive on pitches he can drive. Stowers and Kjerstad showed no signs of letting up production-wise on their returns to the Tides.

There’s an argument that not giving players an extended chance can impact their value to other clubs, but that hasn’t exactly been realized in the Orioles’ cases recently. Poor major league results in a limited sample hardly moved the needle, according to FanGraphs’ ZiPS projection system.

Stowers debuted late in 2022 and performed well once he got a bit of consistent playing time. Based on that and his considerable success in the high minors, Stowers was projected by ZiPS to hit .233 with a .729 OPS and be worth 0.8 wins above replacement in 2023, were he to play a full season.

He went 2-for-30 in the majors to start 2023 before he was demoted to Norfolk, and he produced at a similarly high level to what he had in the past at Triple-A. His ZIPS projection for 2024 hardly changed; he was forecast for a .233 average, .729 OPS and 0.8 WAR for 2024.

Cowser, who went from High-A Aberdeen to Triple-A Norfolk in his first full pro season of 2022, was projected to have a .231 average and a .697 OPS, and be worth 1.5 WAR in a full big league season in 2023. He spent most of the year destroying Triple-A, ending with a .300 average and .937 OPS, but also had a stint in which he hit .115 with a .433 OPS in 77 major league plate appearances mixed in. His projections for 2024 went up slightly — a .235 average with a .707 OPS over a full major league season.

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Joey Ortiz spent the last month of 2022 in Norfolk after going on a second-half tear in the high minors that year, and he had three major league stints and 34 big league plate appearances over 15 games in 2023. He hit .212 with a .448 OPS in the majors but hit .289 with an .886 OPS in Triple-A.

He entered 2023 projected to be a 1.4-win player in the big leagues with a .239 average, a .657 OPS and that WAR figure thanks to his elite defense. Those projections for 2024 were a .247 average, a .662 OPS and 1.6 WAR.

He is, obviously, outperforming that tremendously. But he has had the chance to do so because the Milwaukee Brewers, a team that general manager Mike Elias said has a similar worldview to the Orioles, valued him enough from both a scouting and analytical standpoint to ask for him in a trade for Corbin Burnes. His future value wasn’t diminished one bit.

All that was missing was the opportunity, and that’s baked into the evaluation other clubs make as well. Scouts whose coverage includes the Orioles have years of looks and reports to base their evaluations on. One told me he’d take into account any drastic swings in performance that don’t line up with what happened in the minors but otherwise doesn’t put too much stock into the small samples of performance the Orioles’ recent prospects have put forth.

Pretty much everyone else within the game evaluating the Orioles also takes the full picture into account. This is an absolutely loaded organization, talent-wise, and not breaking through in the majors on the Orioles or having an opportunity delayed more than a player would in another organization is nothing to hold against the player himself.

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Maybe Norby gets hot and sticks around to make this all moot. Maybe he ends up splitting time at second base with Ramón Urías until Mateo returns, then gets returned to Norfolk to make room on the roster for Mateo.

It wouldn’t feel good for anyone involved. It may not be deserved. It also, based on recent history, won’t have any of the adverse impacts similar moves were feared to have.

Jon Meoli is the Baltimore Banner's Orioles columnist and head women's ice hockey coach at Loyola University Maryland.

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