SARASOTA, Fla. — The Orioles have decided they will not have Jackson Holliday, the top prospect in baseball, on their opening day roster. Or Heston Kjerstad, Kyle Stowers, Coby Mayo or Connor Norby.

Instead, the Orioles are sending five of their top prospects, who all performed well in spring training, back to the minors. In most cases, they’ll use veterans in their place.

“Just because you are a top prospect does not mean you leapfrog your skills over guys who have been in the major leagues and have a lot of positive experience and a lot of stability to draw from in their production,” general manager Mike Elias said.

This means Ramón Urías and Colton Cowser are essentially locks on the team and leaves one open bench spot for Ryan McKenna, Kolten Wong, Tyler Nevin or Nick Maton, the other position players remaining in camp. None of the players in that competition has an option left, meaning the Orioles could lose them if they don’t make the team. Wong has informed the Orioles that he has opted out of his minor league deal; they have until Sunday to put him on the team or release him.

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“I’ve got 10 years in this already. I don’t plan on going down to the minor leagues,” Wong said. “Whatever happens happens.”

The decision on who gets the last bench spot will come down to whether the Orioles want to carry five true outfielders or four. In the current situation, Austin Hays, Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Cowser will be on the team, with Jorge Mateo serving as a utilityman who can fill in if needed.

Orioles outfielder Ryan McKenna makes it safely to second base during a game against the Detroit Tigers on Feb. 27. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

If they want a fifth outfielder, McKenna would be the guy. He’s spent parts of the past three seasons in the majors, batting .221 as a right-handed hitter while providing above-average defense at all three positions. Stowers is stronger at the plate than McKenna, but, because he hits from the left side, is redundant with Cowser, who is a stronger defender.

“It became clear that different player profiles were going to be better fits for this first homestand or this first month, whatever it ends up being, with the non-primary outfielder spots that we are talking about here,” Elias said when asked why Stowers didn’t make the team.

The infield is currently composed of Ryan O’Hearn, Ryan Mountcastle, Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Urías and Mateo. If they decide not to go with five outfielders, the services of Wong, Maton or Nevin could come into play.

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Wong arrived late to camp after signing a minor league deal Feb. 28. He’s a second baseman — a spot that is now open with Holliday starting the year in the minors — and won Gold Gloves in 2019 and 2020. His career trailed off last year when he hit only .165 in 67 games before the Mariners released him. He spent September with the Dodgers and fared better in a small sample, going 9-for-30.

Nevin has had a strong spring, hitting .346 with two home runs while primarily playing first base. The Orioles know him well — this offseason was the second time they’ve traded for him. He played 64 games for them across 2021 and 2022 and spent last season with the Tigers, hitting .200 in 41 games.

Maton, acquired from the Tigers for cash in early February, can play second, shortstop and third. He’s played 179 games and has a career WAR of -0.6. He hit .173 in 93 games with the Tigers last year.

There is a fifth option. The Orioles could acquire a new player before opening day, as they did last year with reliever Danny Coulombe, who was one of their steadiest pitchers last season.

Danielle Allentuck covers the Orioles for The Baltimore Banner. She previously reported on the Rockies for the Denver Gazette and general sports assignments for The New York Times as part of its fellowship program. A Maryland native, Danielle grew up in Montgomery County and graduated from Ithaca College.

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