Oriole prospects Connor Norby and Coby Mayo have a strong bond. That’s what made it more special when the two infielders were promoted from High-A Aberdeen to Double-A Bowie along with outfielder Colton Cowser, the Orioles’ top draft pick in 2021.
Norby and Mayo are part of a young, exciting group of players that will be pushing for spots on the Orioles’ roster in the near future.
“We didn’t think it would be possible because there are a lot of things that have to go into place to make it all work,” Norby said. “But it was a special moment. We got called in and talked together. We went to Delmarva together. It’s been a fun journey for the three of us, and I hope it continues to go that way. It was so cool at that moment.”
Norby, 22, showed impressive power for Aberdeen and ranks as the Orioles’ 10th-best prospect as a second baseman, according to MLB Pipeline. He finished his time with the IronBirds batting .237/.311/.425 with 8 home runs and 20 RBIs in 48 games.
Norby is confident that power can translate to the Double-A Bowie. He’s batting .286/.388/485/ with 5 doubles and 2 RBIs in 10 games.
“It’s come around so far,” Norby said. “I don’t really think about it — it’s just putting good swings on good pitches. I’ll continue to say that. It’s looking for your pitch and putting a good swing on it. It’s not you trying to hit homers because that’s when you don’t hit them. It’s just picking the pitches to swing in the heart of the zone, which is what we preach.”
Mayo, 20, is headed to the injured list because of back spasms but he also has developed a solid track record.
In his first professional season last year, Mayo appeared in 53 games, 26 in the Florida Complex League and 27 with Single-A Delmarva. The third baseman hit .319 (58-for-182), including .311 (33-for-106) for Delmarva, with 24 extra-base hits, 9 home runs, 41 RBIs and 46 runs scored.
After a slow start this season at Aberdeen, Mayo got into a groove and showed his potential as an everyday player. He credits his coaches.
“The support we have in this system of each other and the trust they have in us is amazing and it’s something other organizations can’t necessarily say or do because they are not calling up their 20-year-olds to Triple-A and Double-A and all their prospects up pretty quick,” Mayo said.
The competition to get to the major league level will be tough. The players walk a delicate balance of supporting one another while also competing for the next call-up.
It’s a good problem to have for the organization. The players also see a lot of positives with that dynamic because it makes them better.
“It’s crazy how competitive it is in the entire organization, top to bottom,” Norby said. “You want everyone to succeed. You push guys on your left and right the same way you want them to push you. That’s what this culture is. You have a lot of guys making their major league debuts this year that we were at early camp with and talking all the time. You’re figuring out how to get in that spot? It’s an awesome thing to be part of.”
Elias on minors: Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias gave a number of updates on the organization’s top prospects dealing with injuries or potential promotions:
Grayson Rodriguez, the fourth-ranked prospect in MLB, is rehabbing a Grade 2 lat strain in Sarasota, Florida. Further tests have not revealed any significant issues, and Rodriguez is doing fitness work before resuming baseball activities. There is still no timetable for his return. “Things are trending well, but we still have stuff to go,” Elias said.
Right-handed pitcher Carter Baumler was placed on the injured list because of right shoulder inflammation at Delmarva. Baumler had Tommy John surgery in 2020. “His shoulder’s barking right now and he’s missing time, but we don’t know at this point in time the length of that or that there will be any intervention beyond rest,” Elias said. “It’s still something that we’re looking at and getting different opinions and voices on.” Baumler has a 1.54 ERA with 20 strikeouts and seven walks in 11 2/3 innings this season.
At Triple-Norfolk, left-hander DL Hall, infielders Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg, and infielder/outfielder Terrin Vavra could join the Orioles at some point this summer. However, Hyde was coy about those plans. “Nothing specific to them,” Elias said, “Anybody that we call up or not, whether or not you’re already on the 40-man roster, is certainly a relevant consideration from a moment-to-moment standpoint.”
Outfielder Heston Kjerstad is pushing for a promotion from Delmarva to Single-A Aberdeen after batting .463/.551/.650 with 9 doubles, 2 home runs, and 17 RBIs in 22 games. Kjerstad dealt with myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, shortly after the 2020 draft and a hamstring injury in spring training this year. Elias was non-committal about a promotion other than to say, “His Delmarva debut has gone as well as it possibly could have gone. I don’t think we’re going to leave him [at Delmarva] all year.”
Hall dominating: Hall has been impressive for Norfolk, and he made the necessary adjustments after he suspected that he was tipping his pitches. On July 6th, Hall had a career-high 14 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory over Jacksonville. He allowed one run and three hits with just two walks in six innings. “I think just mixing all of my pitches and trying to stay through the zone,” Hall said. “Now that I can stretch deeper into games I can cruise and be a real starter. For the main thing, getting my timing up out of the stretch has been a big thing for me right now. But it’s going well. We’re moving in the right direction.” Overall, Hall is 2-4 with a 4.02 ERA in 14 starts.
Henderson makes Futures Game: Henderson was selected to play for the American League team in the All-Star Futures Game. Henderson is the only Oriole prospect to make the American League team. The game will take place Saturday, July 16th at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. ET.
After a successful stint at Double-A Bowie, Henderson continued that success for the Tides, batting .264/.388/.472 with 5 doubles, 5 homers and 17 RBIs. He became the first Norfolk player to hit for the cycle in 22 years in an 8-2 victory over the Gwinnett Stripers on June 28th. He accomplished that feat in four at-bats.
“This is pretty unreal,” Henderson said. “It really didn’t hit me in the moment. Just being able to sit down and take it all in, it’s pretty awesome. Just really special. I can’t thank God enough for that. It was a special night, especially this close to my birthday.”