Of the 31 non-roster players the Orioles invited to join them in Sarasota for spring training, there are top prospects in line for their first taste of a major league camp and veterans hoping for one more opportunity.
The group — which includes 12 pitchers, 10 infielders, five outfielders and four catchers — has intriguing names all over it. Between their non-roster invites and those already on the 40-man roster, all 10 of the Orioles’ top prospects will be in Sarasota with the big league team.
Some of the non-roster invites could crack the opening day roster. There are opportunities available for a backup first baseman and possibly another outfielder. Competition for those spots will be between Lewin Díaz, Franchy Cordero, Josh Lester and Nomar Mazara — a collective that has played 1,025 major league games between them.
But some of the most interesting names are the ones who don’t have one major league appearance under their belt yet. They’ll be ones to watch come spring training.
1. Jackson Holliday
The last year for Jackson Holliday has been full of accomplishments. He only turned 19 in December, and yet he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, was drafted first overall by the Orioles, made his professional baseball debut and will now be heading to his first big-league spring training camp.
Take it all in.
Holliday reached Low-A Delmarva before the end of last season and could begin 2023 in the same spot before continuing a rise toward the majors that could take several years. He hit .238 in those 12 games but walked 15 times.
It won’t be a long stay for the shortstop during big-league camp — at least this year. But it’s an early opportunity to see a fast riser who could replace Gunnar Henderson as next year’s top prospect among major leaguers.
2. Jordan Westburg
Jordan Westburg appears to be on the verge of breaking through to the majors, and a strong showing during spring training could accelerate his arrival.
The Orioles’ opening day infield seems set, with Jorge Mateo, Henderson, Adam Frazier and Ramón Urías. Westburg is in position for a midseason call-up, however, particularly after what he did at Triple-A Norfolk last season.
The infielder earned the Orioles’ minor league player of the year award after blasting 27 home runs between Double- and Triple-A, combining across both levels for an .852 on-base-plus-slugging percentage. It was his most productive season yet, just two years after he was selected in the first round of the 2020 draft from Mississippi State.
3. Coby Mayo
Still just 21, Mayo completed his first full season of affiliate ball by rising from High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie without missing a step.
The infielder, who might project as a first baseman prospect in the future, has so far primarily played third base. With Henderson and Westburg appearing to be the long-term candidates there, Mayo might find a quicker path to the majors — and to playing time — across the diamond.
But no matter where he’ll fit with a glove, Mayo’s bat makes him a fascinating prospect, one that ranks as the ninth-best third baseman in MLB Pipeline’s rankings. He hit 19 homers last season and is prepared for a jump to Triple-A in 2023.
4. Colton Cowser
During an appearance on MLB Network Radio last week, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said he expected outfielder Colton Cowser to be ready for his MLB debut at some point in 2023.
Drafted fifth overall in 2021, Cowser bolted through the minor leagues to reach Triple-A by the end of last year. It was a well-earned promotion for a hitter who posted a 1.037 OPS for Double-A Bowie in 49 games.
The outfield in Baltimore is stacked with Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander and Austin Hays. But an injury to one of them would only hasten Cowser’s rise.
5. Heston Kjerstad
The path for Heston Kjerstad hasn’t been easy. He missed his first two seasons of professional baseball due to myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle. He returned in 2022, however, batting .309 between Low-A and High-A, before winning the 2022 Arizona Fall League MVP award.
It appears Kjerstad is back.
Now the second-overall pick in 2020 is in line to play in his first major league spring training on the back of those dominant performances at lower levels, hoping to lay the groundwork for a career that was worth the wait.
Here’s the full list of non-roster invites:
Pitchers: RHP Eduard Bazardo; RHP Wandisson Charles; RHP Kyle Dowdy; RHP Reed Garrett; RHP Ofreidy Gómez; RHP Morgan McSweeney; LHP Cade Povich; RHP Kade Strowd; RHP Cole Uvila; RHP Chris Vallimont; RHP Ryan Watson; LHP Darwinzon Hernandez
Catchers: Anthony Bemboom; Maverick Handley; Mark Kolozsvary; Ramon Rodriguez
Infielders: Franchy Cordero; Lewin Díaz; Jackson Holliday; Josh Lester; Coby Mayo; Connor Norby; Ryan O’Hearn; César Prieto; Curtis Terry; Jordan Westburg
Outfielders: Daz Cameron; Colton Cowser; Heston Kjerstad; Nomar Mazara; Robert Neustrom