SARASOTA, Fla. — Two weeks have already passed since most Orioles players arrived at the Ed Smith Stadium complex for the beginning of spring training. Even though there’s only been a handful of games, several players have stood out early.

Right-hander Corbin Burnes, for instance, has looked every bit of the ace the Orioles anticipated him to be when they acquired him via a trade in early February. Catcher Adley Rutschman homered in his first spring training game.

Their spots on the major league roster are virtually guaranteed. There are others, however, who are pushing to make Baltimore’s opening day roster — from prospects to journeymen.

These are some of the players who have impressed in the early stages of Orioles spring training.

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Baltimore Orioles center fielder Colton Cowser (17) swings at a pitch during a Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park on Feb. 25, 2024. The Orioles beat the Pirates, 2-0, during Sunday’s game. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Colton Cowser

Colton Cowser only played 26 games in the major leagues last season — a small sample size to draw conclusions from — and yet the outfielder’s .115 average with 22 strikeouts and a 28 OPS+ (100 is league average) softened some of the hype around the prospect.

He has been a slow starter at just about every level, though, and always managed to shake it off. After all, Cowser has made adjustments in Triple-A and proven he can both control the strike zone and spray the ball around the field.

Cowser’s early spring training results are a strong reminder of what he’s capable of producing. He hit a two-run walk-off homer in his first spring training game and followed it up with three walks in his next two games.

If Cowser can flash that power and plate discipline routinely in camp (as well as play center field, as he has been doing), then he has a strong chance of making the roster. While Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays are fixtures in the outfield, there’s still room for another outfielder in the majors. And in the long run, Cowser could be a mainstay.

Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Coby Mayo (86) slides home safely to score a run during a Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park on Feb. 25, 2024. The Orioles beat the Pirates, 2-0, during Sunday’s game. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Coby Mayo

The biggest improvement manager Brandon Hyde has noticed from Coby Mayo is his defense. The infielder, who mainly plays third base, has taken leaps forward on that front.

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Hyde had already seen Mayo’s potential with a bat in his hands.

“He’s come a long way defensively,” Hyde said. “The power in batting practice is ridiculously impressive. … But his defense has stood out. He’s made big strides defensively.”

So far, Mayo has shown off both sides of his game in his first few opportunities. He doubled in his first at-bat of the spring and added two singles and a walk two days later. On Tuesday, Mayo powered a ball foul down the left-field line and finished the long at-bat with another walk before driving an RBI double later in the game.

While there might not be a direct path to playing time on the opening day roster, Mayo can continue building toward a breakthrough. The 22-year-old, ranked by Baseball America as the No. 3 prospect in Baltimore’s farm system, has torn through the minors. He finished 2023 in Triple-A, where he hit .267 with a .905 OPS. Expect him in Baltimore at some point in the season.

Baltimore Orioles relief pitcher Matt Krook (66) pitches during the team’s spring training session at Ed Smith Stadium on Feb. 23, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Matt Krook

The Orioles acquired left-hander Matt Krook in a cash trade with the New York Yankees after pitchers and catchers had already reported to Sarasota. The 29-year-old struggled in four innings for the Yankees last year, allowing 11 earned runs.

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But in 34 Triple-A innings, Krook held a 1.32 ERA with a 2.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Krook displayed that superior strikeout potential in his first outing of the spring on Monday, when he punched out Atlanta’s Matt Olson, Michael Harris II and Tyler Tolve. As a member of the 40-man roster with two options remaining, Krook is likely to play a role at some point in Baltimore.

Baltimore Orioles pitchers Seth Johnson (56) and Justin Armbruester stretch during the team’s spring training session at Ed Smith Stadium on Feb. 23, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Seth Johnson

After missing nearly all of 2023 as he recovered from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery, Seth Johnson showed the arsenal that makes him a highly touted prospect. Johnson said his start Monday against a stacked Atlanta Braves lineup “showed myself that my stuff plays at this level.”

Johnson’s slider induced whiffs from Harris and Marcell Ozuna, and his fastball was consistently at 95 mph.

The 25-year-old reached Double-A Bowie last year, so he’s likely destined for further time in the minors to begin the season, but the right-hander could be a midseason call-up candidate.

“It’s really impressive major league starter stuff,” Hyde said. “It was great to see him get back on the mound for the first time in a long time and see him pitch the way he did.”

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Baltimore Orioles left fielder Kyle Stowers throws the ball to another player during the team’s spring training session at Ed Smith Stadium on Feb. 22, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Kyle Stowers

The outfield is a difficult place to be an Orioles prospect, considering the three veterans who have a firm grasp on the starting roles. It was an even more difficult place for Kyle Stowers last year, when the prospect only played 14 games in the majors after breaking through in 2022 (and in those 14 games, he hit .067).

Stowers has taken good swings during live batting practice sessions all spring, though, and he followed that up with a left-on-left home run in Monday’s game against the Braves. With a series of impressive plate appearances, Stowers could push his way into the outfield conversation.

“He looks ready to go,” Hyde said. “It’s still early. But the way he’s stayed on the baseball against left-handers has definitely been impressive.”

Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Cole Irvin (19) catches the ball from a teammate during a Grapefruit League game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at LECOM Park on Feb. 25, 2024. The Orioles beat the Pirates, 2-0, during Sunday’s game. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Cole Irvin

Cole Irvin wasn’t satisfied with how he performed in 2023. The left-hander was acquired in a trade from the Oakland Athletics that offseason, started three games for the Orioles and then was optioned after allowing 15 earned runs.

Irvin aimed to reinvent himself over the offseason, and when he took the mound Sunday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, he wowed with his increased velocity on each pitch. Irvin hit 95.9 mph and struck out three batters. With a UCL sprain for Kyle Bradish and a late buildup for John Means, Irvin could be a central piece in the rotation to start the year, particularly if his early displays in live batting practice and his first game carry into the regular season.

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“A lot of the hard work in the offseason is starting to pay off,” Irvin said. “That’s what I attribute it to. It was a longer offseason for me because I gave myself no breather of rest, because I just wanted to get better. So far, we’re starting to see the labors of the work.”

Baltimore Orioles infielder Tyler Nevin (41) connects with a pitch during a Grapefruit League game against the Detroit Tigers at Ed Smith Stadium on February 27, 2024.
Baltimore Orioles infielder Tyler Nevin (41) connects with a pitch during a Grapefruit League game against the Detroit Tigers at Ed Smith Stadium on Feb. 27, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Tyler Nevin

A well-known utilityman in Baltimore, Tyler Nevin returned to the organization this offseason and has started camp in good form. In his first three games, Nevin notched four hits, including a two-run homer in Monday’s split-squad game against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Nevin has a locker full of gloves, which adds to his versatility. He can play the corners in the infield and outfield. While Nevin is likely destined for Triple-A Norfolk to begin the year, his early knocks bode well for him should injuries require Baltimore to make a call-up.

Baltimore Orioles outfielder Daniel Johnson (73) sprints to second base during a Grapefruit League game against the Detroit Tigers at Ed Smith Stadium on Feb. 27, 2024. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

Daniel Johnson

Signed as a depth outfield option and here as a nonroster invitee, Daniel Johnson put on a clinic in Tuesday’s game against the Tigers. He finished a home run short of the cycle.

Johnson, 28, last played in the majors in 2021 with the Cleveland Guardians. He hit .271 between Double-A and Triple-A for the San Diego Padres last year. He is a long shot to make the team at any point this season, considering he’s not on the 40-man roster. Still, Norfolk needs talent, and he has showed off his exit velocity in the cage and now in games.

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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