SARASOTA—In the early Grapefruit League games, some of the Orioles’ top prospects could get significant game action. Two of their top infield prospects, Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz, are in their first major league camp.
Westburg, MLB Pipeline’s 74th-rated prospect, was named the Orioles’ minor league player of the year. The Orioles’ second-round draft pick in 2020, Westburg hit .265 with an .852 OPS, 27 home runs and 106 RBIs with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk.
Westburg, who doesn’t have to be placed on the 40-man roster, is enjoying his first camp.
“I don’t know if I’m necessarily out to prove anything,” Westburg said. “I’m just going out there and being Jordan Westburg. I feel like if I’m able to do that, at the end of the day, I’ll put myself in a good position to be where I want to be, just hopefully helping the big league club.”
Because the Orioles signed second baseman Adam Frazier as a free agent, Westburg is probably not going to begin the season with the Orioles.
“If not, obviously there’s some things that I want to go down to Triple-A and work on,” he said. “I’ll embrace that with open arms. I don’t feel any pressure to go out and prove anything. I’ve got to be me.”
Manager Brandon Hyde wants Westburg to play second base, shortstop and third this spring and believes he could play in the majors now.
“I’d like to think so. We’ll see. It’s spring training,” Westburg said. “That’s part of the reason I’m here is to kind of see where I’m at every day when I’m around big league players, pitchers. I always feel confident in my game. The true test will be going out there and seeing if I can perform at a high level. I’m excited to see what happens.”
Westburg attended Mississippi State, just as Frazier did, and wasn’t upset that the Orioles signed Frazier.
“I was excited. I met Adam once or twice when I was at Mississippi State,” he said. “I don’t know him all that well, but it’d be cool to see a familiar face, another Bulldog, in the clubhouse.
“At the end of the day, we’re all rooting for the big league club. If it’s his spot, then that’s the way it’s got to be. I trust that Hyder and [general manager Mike] Elias make the correct decision. I didn’t feel upset. I didn’t feel worried. I’m going to focus on me.”
Westburg is eager to learn from the veterans.
“Hoping to pick a lot of people’s brains here. I’m an open book, open to learning as much as I possibly can, taking as much as I can,” he said. “Hopefully, it’s going to help improve my game.”
While Westburg didn’t have to be placed on the 40-man roster last November, Ortiz did, and he’s also in his first major league camp.
“It’s good. Everything’s been good so far. I’ve been working hard, so it’s really cool,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz, who was the Orioles’ fourth-round pick in 2019, is the 99th-rated prospect by MLB Pipeline. A shortstop, Ortiz could make the club if there’s an infield injury.
“Wherever they need me. I can play anywhere,” he said.
Looking around the clubhouse, Ortiz sees people he knows and cares about.
“It’s nice, especially from the comfortability standpoint,” Ortiz said. “You played with the guys you’ve already been going up with. It’s not anything new as far as meeting new people, so it’s pretty cool.”
It seems likely that Ortiz will play in the major leagues this season, and could make it before Westburg does.
“I always have the mindset of being ready for the call,” he said. “Whenever that happens, it happens. I’m just going to worry about where I am now, put in the work.”
Last year, Ortiz combined for 19 home runs, 85 RBIs, a .284 average and an .826 OPS at Bowie and Norfolk. Ortiz had never come close to showing that much power in his pro career.
“From the first year, I’ve gotten a lot stronger, just figuring out my swing is the main thing,” Ortiz said. “I feel like I’ve always been strong enough to hit the ball over the fence. Figuring out how to get the ball in the air more consistently has been a big focus point for me.”
Oritz has always been known as a standout defender, but his bat is catching up.
“To be able to play in this game, I feel like I have to do both well,” he said. “Having the glove-first title just put a little chip on my shoulder to show them I can hit, too. I’m glad I’m able to do that now.”
Ortiz and Westburg both want to be part of the next Orioles’ winning team.
“It’s special. Everybody sees it,” he said. “Nobody expected us to do what the big league club did last year, took some people by surprise. This year, I can only speak for myself but I would like to think that everybody on that big league club is kind of fiery and excited to shock everybody again and get into the playoffs this year.
“A lot of talent on both sides of the ball, there’s a lot of talent on the mound and a lot of young guys who are hopefully ready to make an impact soon. It’s an exciting time to be a Baltimore Oriole. The whole ‘chaos coming.’ Hopefully that comes sooner rather than later for us.”
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB