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5 Orioles Prospects Shining Early On

Jordan Westburg spring training
Jordan Westburg (Craig Landefeld/GulfBird Sports)
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The Orioles’ minor leagues are in full swing two weeks into the season. Last week, we discussed my initial observations after the first week. While writing that article, I noticed I spent a lot of time on what the prospects were doing more than what the affiliates were accomplishing.

This gave me an idea to make a list of five prospects who have impressed me. So that is what I am going to do today. In no particular order, these are five Orioles prospects that have impressed in the first couple of weeks of play.

(Disclaimer: if I don’t mention a particular prospect, it does not mean that they aren’t having good seasons. I could honestly make this list a top 20 and still leave off some guys. These are just the five that have stood out the most, to my eye.)

Connor Nory, 2B

Connor Norby is one of the most consistent hitters in the O’s farm. After leading the NCAA in hits in 2021 for ECU, the Birds drafted him in the second round of the 2021 draft. After getting some cups of coffee in the GCL and Delmarva last year, he has started on fire for the IronBirds, hitting, .286/.367/.500, with two home runs and three doubles to start the year with an .867 ops.

Norby’s numbers look impressive, but I think he has run into some bad luck. He’s had some hard line drives that just happened to land in the outfielders’ gloves. Norby is hitting for more power than I predicted he would this year. He hits the ball hard with his line-drive swing and hits for more power than his size would suggest. He also has great speed and athleticism that shows up in his defense specifically. Norby’s defense at second is the most underrated part of his profile. He has impressed me there, making some diving and leaping grabs. He also has a pretty underrated arm for second base and has helped Aberdeen put on a defensive show every time they touch the field.

Norby’s overall numbers look solid, but he has been playing better than his numbers might suggest with his line-drive swing to crush baseball and his speed and athleticism producing great defense at second base.

Moises Chase, SP

I talked about Moises Chase last time but he deserves a shoutout here. There isn’t much info on Chase, so bear with me here. Chase was one of the International signings in 2019 and is still only 18 years old. He is the definition of a breakout candidate because there haven’t been many eyes on him until now. He has only given up three hits in eight innings and struck out twelve batters. He has shown some projectable stuff, but it is hard to put my finger on his exact repertoire.

Chase will look to join the other pitchers who broke out when they got to Delmarva in DL Hall and Grayson Rodriguez.  He should be an easy breakout candidate if he continues this impressive stretch.

Jordan Westburg, 3B/2B/SS

We understood that Jordan Westburg was a good prospect with a versatile skill set, but my goodness, has he been hot, slashing, .282/.440/.641 with four home runs and an ops of 1.081. He has also struck out the same number of times he’s walked this year (through Thursday’s games).

Westburg has also shown versatility as he has been positive defensively at three different positions on the infield. He is simply playing out of his mind right now, but what stands out to me is his power and discipline. Being able to slug over 600 while also getting on base over 40 percent of the time is something reserved for extraordinary prospects. Westburg probably won’t keep this up, but I think he has unlocked something in his power and patience, ass a versatile prospect that can play anywhere on the infield while hitting for average, power, and discipline.

Kyle Bradish, SP

Kyle Bradish was always a prospect I enjoyed watching. He’s always had a good fastball with good breaking balls to complement it. My main issue with Bradish is that he walked too many hitters when he got to Triple-A last year (39 in 86 innings). He got off to a slower start and had to catch up with his innings after Spring Training ended, so he’s only pitched nine innings, but has shown so much improvement from last year in those frames. Bradish seems very comfortable on the mound, and he isn’t afraid to attack the strike zone. He pitches with so much confidence that I wish it would rub off on others to be so confident even when they don’t have the best pure stuff.

[Related: Bradish Dominates]

Bradish is fun to watch dominate, and he is going to be in the major league rotation by June, if not sooner.

Grayson Rodriguz, SP

Sometimes a player is so dominant that words simply can’t describe what they are doing, and you just have to sit down and experience what is happening. This is the feeling I have with Grayson Rodriguez. He has dominated at every level he has pitched at for the Orioles, and he is now dominating Triple A. Hitters simply can’t handle his nastiness on the mound. Every time a hitter comes up to face Gray Rod, they just look helpless most of the time. Whether that is whiffing on a high fastball that can hit up to 100 mph, completely missing on his two distinct breaking balls, or getting caught looking on his off-speed pitch, it is never a comfortable at-bat facing him. I honestly don’t know what to say about it at this point. The only criticism is the lack of innings. He is clearly on a pitch limit, and went out for the sixth for just the first time last week.

This isn’t bad, and I don’t get why some evaluators or fans hold this against him. Corbin Burns won a Cy Young on an innings limit last year for crying out loud. Do I want him to go deeper? Yes, and he will get through the sixth soon – probably in his next start.

Another point is that every pitcher in the Orioles minor leagues is on this innings limit; this isn’t a Gray Rod issue. Gray Rod is so nasty that the Orioles need him to get stretched out in Triple-A so that when he gets that long-awaited call, he is ready to give them dominant innings. Rodriguez is the best pitching prospect in baseball and has the upside of being the ace this franchise has been searching for these last 30 years.

I hope you have enjoyed this read, and I hope to do more of these list as the year goes on.

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