To hit every day as an Orioles prospect is to, in many ways, prepare like a big leaguer. The pregame work and schedule are the same in Baltimore as any stop on the way there. Same with how scouting reports on opposing pitchers and hitters meetings are organized.

In many ways, that alignment has been responsible for how quickly the Orioles get their prospects through the minors and to the majors. What they’ve found in the last two years is there are some things that are more difficult to replicate: the stakes, the players’ roles, and the pressure that comes in the big leagues.

The result is an uneven transition that some players — like Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson — were able to overcome, while others like Colton Cowser and Kyle Stowers had different experiences. The commonalities are manifold. The solution is less obvious.

“What do these guys need to get better at?” Orioles co-hitting coach Ryan Fuller said. “Usually, it’s failure. You see it with all the guys who come up. You’re going to get a tough stretch coming at you at some point, so how can we help them prepare for those moments and not be shocked when there is failure and get them back to doing the work?”

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The Orioles’ ability to manage those transitions from the minors to the majors will be paramount to sustaining and building on the success they’ve had the last few seasons, with the pending debut of infielder Jackson Holliday likely to be the next major addition to the major league lineup.

A survey of those who came before him presents a variety of different challenges Holliday could face, some of which the Orioles can prepare their prospects for and some they can’t.

Rutschman, whose May 2022 debut came with plenty of fanfare as he was the team and the game’s top prospect, described the hurdle for himself as mental.

“I felt like when I got to the big leagues I saw the ball well, but I guess the emotions, nerves — you’re swinging with a little more gusto, maybe,” said Rutschman, who was batting .153 with a .451 OPS after his first 16 major league games. “You kind of let the amperage get to you a little bit and you’re clipping balls a little bit that you should be flushing, making slight adjustments, then you struggle a little bit and you’re like, ‘Is this mental or a physical mistake?’ Letting those thoughts grow in your head is tough.”

Rutschman had the opportunity to play regularly in that span as the team’s starting catcher. When Henderson struggled early in the 2023 season after a smooth debut in 2022, he played regularly as well. Those without a daily role have an additional adjustment to cope with.

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To be a top prospect at Triple-A means playing every day, batting third, and accumulating nearly 30 plate appearances each week, no matter how you’re faring.

To feel like your success one night may dictate whether you get to play the next only adds to something that’s proving difficult for many of the Orioles’ recent debutants: pressure.

“I’m very fortunate to be a part of this club, so I want to help out in any way I can,” infielder Jordan Westburg said. “The fallback of that is, I put a lot of pressure on myself, and when I didn’t come through, it weighed on me more, versus being able to flush it at times. Sometimes, I did a good job of flushing it and moving on, other times I didn’t. I felt like I never took it on the defensive side, though, so I’m proud of that. But that’s the one thing you just can’t really prepare for — there’s no way to prepare for pressure. It just happens — pressure is part of the game. Nervousness is part of the game. There’s really no way to prepare for that, no matter what level you play at in the minors. You can’t simulate that.”

That makes the struggles that typically come for every young hitter more challenging. Cowser, who debuted in July after a pair of center field injuries and was unable to meaningfully take hold of his chance to play regularly, acknowledged it’s only once you reach the big leagues that you can know that it’s different.

“Still the same game, I think just kind of how I went about it and the situation I was in, I think the expectation was a little bit different,” Cowser said. “Your expectation is to go play, but if you struggle, it’s OK. Just because you’re on a pennant-race team, you’re still allowed to struggle a little bit.”

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The goal of the Orioles’ hitting coaches, Fuller and Matt Borgschulte, as they enter their third season on the major-league staff is to keep those struggles as short as possible. Part of their conversations with players who are sent down after struggling in their debuts is to ask what the staff could have done to help make them more comfortable and ease the transition. Fuller and Borgschulte also share their observations on adjustments players can make to level up to the majors before it becomes an ongoing in-game concern.

That involves projecting how pitchers may start attacking players once they get a sense of their weaknesses, and working to “make that countermove before they do that,” Fuller said.

“It’s not being afraid of saying, ‘This is what we believe, we want you to be your best, we care about you, here’s our thoughts right away,’” Fuller said. “We don’t want them to go through the period when they get up here where they struggle for two weeks and have them say, ‘Well, you didn’t give me anything.’ We want the game to teach them lessons, but we want to be there to help make those lessons really manageable and have them be able to excel at them. So, going to have those conversations of, ‘This is what we see, here’s a thing you can do’ a lot quicker than we may have year one.”

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

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