Orioles minor league All-Stars: Coby Mayo, Chayce McDermott highlight top first-half performers (2024)

Connor Norby’s recent stint with the Orioles can’t even be described as a cup of coffee.

He drove up to Baltimore from Norfolk to be on the Orioles’ taxi squad for one day in case Austin Hays or Jordan Westburg had to be placed on the injured list. Neither was, so Norby went back to Triple-A.

Norby is the prototypical Orioles minor league All-Star, but he wants much more than that. The 2021 second-round pick has hit at every stop, and he’s posted an .864 OPS in 213 games at Triple-A — an impressively high number for someone who turned 24 years old last month. He’s now sixth in Tides history (as an Orioles affiliate) with 253 hits and third with 62 doubles.

“They’re cool, for sure, but I’d also like to set some records here, not just down there,” Norby said during his brief stay in the Orioles’ clubhouse Saturday. “They’re great and all, but you don’t want to get too comfortable down there. I think I belong here, and it’s just continuing to show that and be ready whenever my name is called.”

The second baseman who is also learning to play corner outfield made his MLB debut in early June, spending a week in the majors while Jorge Mateo was on the IL. It won’t be long before he is a major leaguer for good — whether that’s with Baltimore or another organization that acquires him in a trade. He’s even more confident of that after his first taste of the show.

“I always thought I could, but it just confirmed that I can play at this level,” he said.

Norby is far from the only prospect putting up impressive numbers on the farm and many of them join him here, on The Baltimore Sun’s list of the top performers among prospects in the Orioles’ system throughout the first half of the minor league season.

(Note: Players currently in the major leagues, like Heston Kjerstad and Cade Povich, or those with MLB experience in previous seasons, like Kyle Stowers and Daniel Johnson, are not eligible for this list despite their impressive performances in Triple-A this year.)

Catcher

Double-A Bowie’s Samuel Basallo: The 19-year-old is the Orioles’ No. 3 prospect and the No. 2 catching prospect in MLB, according to Baseball America. He’s dealt with several minor injuries this season after recovering from a stress fracture in his elbow this spring, but he’s still put up a solid .278/.338/.456 slash line with 11 home runs in 68 games. Basallo, who could become one of the rare players to reach Triple-A in his age-19 season later this year, is splitting his time between catcher and first base as the Orioles try to get his defense caught up to his powerful bat.

First base

Triple-A Norfolk’s Billy Cook: The 2021 10th-round pick was drafted as an outfielder, but the Orioles are developing him as a super-utility player. Cook, who MLB Pipeline ranks as Baltimore’s No. 30 prospect, has played second and third base as well as all three outfield spots this season, but most of his games have come at first base. The 25-year-old possesses some of the loudest tools in the system, and he’s having perhaps his best offensive season in the minors with an .802 OPS with 22 extra-base hits and 11 stolen bases for the Tides.

Orioles minor league All-Stars: Coby Mayo, Chayce McDermott highlight top first-half performers (1)

Second base

Triple-A Norfolk’s Jackson Holliday: In a different universe, Holliday wouldn’t be eligible for this list because he’d already be an everyday player for the Orioles. But in reality, the wunderkind struggled in his first stint in the show and was optioned back to Triple-A after a little more than two weeks. He hasn’t hit as well since his April demotion, and he’s dealt with an elbow injury that is currently anchoring him to only be a designated hitter, but Holliday is still hitting .268 with a .902 OPS, 17 doubles and eight home runs. Baseball’s top prospect has walked as many times as he’s struck out (60) — an elite trait that was absent during his brief time in the majors.

Third base

Triple-A Norfolk’s Coby Mayo: The only thing keeping Mayo from winning Baltimore’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year Award is a call-up to the majors. The 2020 fourth-round pick is putting up video game numbers at just 22 years old: a .302/.380/.622 slash line for a 1.002 OPS with 17 home runs and 48 RBI in 54 games. It’s unclear how the Orioles could find a spot for Mayo, the club’s No. 2 prospect, to be an everyday player, but if he keeps hitting like this, they’ll likely give him a shot before long.

Shortstop

Low-A Delmarva’s Aron Estrada: The Venezuela native isn’t in Baltimore’s organizational top 30, but he could change that soon if he continues playing this way. In his first year of full-season ball, Estrada is hitting .289 with a .787 OPS. In 67 games, the 19-year-old has 13 doubles, seven homers and 23 stolen bases while playing both middle infield spots. Estrada was a member of the Orioles’ 2022 international class.

Outfield

Double-A Bowie’s Matthew Etzel: Like Estrada, Etzel isn’t a top 30 prospect. He will be soon. The 22-year-old 10th-round pick has been the most impressive player from Baltimore’s 2023 draft class, becoming its first member to reach Double-A when he did so June 11. In fact, he reached the level faster than any Orioles prospect during the Mike Elias era, beating out Colton Cowser and Norby (June 27, 2022) and Holliday (July 9, 2023) — three players who were selected on Day 1 of their respective drafts. Between High- and Double-A, Etzel is slashing .298/.370/.465 — good for an .835 OPS — with 24 extra-base hits and 37 stolen bases in 68 games.

High-A Aberdeen’s Enrique Bradfield Jr.: The 2023 first-round pick’s .718 OPS doesn’t scream All-Star, but it’s critical to not forget what made Bradfield an intriguing prospect in the first place. He has true 80-grade speed and defense, a rare combination that carries his overall profile. While he’s yet to take a jump offensively, he’s still batting .271 with 39 stolen bases in 54 games while missing some time because of injury. Bradfield was never expected to be a top-tier hitting prospect, but if he can develop into even an average big league hitter, his speed and defense would make him a valuable player.

Double-A Bowie’s Dylan Beavers: After a hot start to the season, Beavers struggled in June with a .599 OPS. Despite the down month, Beavers still sports a .765 OPS with nine homers and 14 stolen bases. Beavers, the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect, could end his season in Triple-A as more players from Norfolk make their way to Baltimore, or his left-handed bat and defensive ability could make him an attractive prospect for other organizations in trade talks.

Orioles minor league All-Stars: Coby Mayo, Chayce McDermott highlight top first-half performers (2)

Utility

Triple-A Norfolk’s Connor Norby: It’s no surprise that 2024 has been Norby’s best minor league season. He’s hitting .285 with an .872 OPS, 20 doubles and 11 homers. Norby often displays the ability to go the other way — flashing impressive opposite-field power — while also being able to stay back on an offspeed pitch and deposit it over the left field wall as he did for his first MLB home run against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Starting pitchers

Triple-A Norfolk’s Chayce McDermott: No pitcher in the minor leagues has struck out more batters than McDermott this season. In 83 innings, the right-hander has racked up 121 punchouts — good for an impressive 33.4% strikeout rate — while posting a 3.58 ERA. While he’s struggled at times with walks, McDermott, the Orioles’ No. 2 pitching prospect, is throwing well enough that he could soon receive his call-up to join Povich in the majors. Baltimore acquired McDermott in the Trey Mancini trade at the 2022 deadline.

High-A Aberdeen’s Luis De León: When Povich graduates from prospect status this summer, De León will be the organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect. After dominating Low-A with a 2.25 ERA and a 35.3% strikeout rate, De León, 21, earned a bump up to Aberdeen. He’s struggled a bit with a 4.85 ERA, but the jump from Low- to High-A is perhaps the largest in the minors. The Orioles signed De León out of the Dominican Republic in December 2021.

High-A Aberdeen’s Jackson Baumeister: Selected 63rd overall last summer, Baumeister is the highest-drafted pitcher in the Elias era. The right-hander sports a troubling 14.5% walk rate, but he’s been able to get by thanks to his plus fastball that’s held hitters to a .192 batting average. Baumeister, the club’s No. 4 pitching prospect, owns a 2.60 ERA with 65 strikeouts in 55 1/3 innings, and he’s a candidate to end his season in Double-A.

Triple-A Norfolk’s Brandon Young: The only starting pitcher in Baltimore’s system with a higher strikeout rate than Young’s 32.6% is McDermott. Young, an undrafted free agent after the COVID-shortened 2020 draft, pitched only 38 2/3 innings in 2022 and 2023 combined as he dealt with injuries, but he dominated Double-A to earn a spot in Norfolk’s rotation. While the right-hander has a 4.37 ERA on the season, his solid walk rate (7.8%) paired with his plus strikeout percentage makes him an intriguing option that’s only one call away from Baltimore. While the 25-year-old doesn’t appear on Baltimore’s organizational top 30, FanGraphs recently considered him for its top 100 list in all of baseball.

Double-A Bowie’s Cameron Weston: Also not in Baltimore’s top 30, Weston’s first half was as impressive as any pitcher in the system. His 0.946 WHIP and 2.25 ERA between Aberdeen and Bowie rank best among Orioles minor league starters with at least eight starts. The right-hander’s strikeout rate didn’t dip when making the jump to Double-A, holding steady at around 30%. The Orioles drafted Weston in 2022’s eighth round.

Relief pitchers

Triple-A Norfolk’s Trey McGough: The Orioles will be in the market for bullpen help at the trade deadline. If no deals materialize, McGough, a left-hander, could be an option if Baltimore deems him ready for the majors. The Mount St. Mary’s standout dominated Double-A to earn his promotion to Norfolk, where he’s adjusted well. Between the two levels, McGough has posted a 2.28 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with a 28.3% strikeout rate. The Orioles drafted the 26-year-old in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft in 2022 as he recovered from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery.

Triple-A Norfolk’s Nolan Hoffman: The sidearmer struggled to begin his season, allowing 29 base runners in 13 1/3 innings while posting an 8.10 ERA. In his 17 2/3 innings since, Hoffman hasn’t allowed an earned run while striking out 28 batters. If the 26-year-old continues to pitch this well, his sidearm release could make him an interesting bullpen option for the Orioles. Hoffman also joined Baltimore via the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft when the Orioles selected him with the first overall pick in 2021.

Triple-A Norfolk’s Luis González: The left-hander is perhaps too old to be a prospect at 32 years old, but he’s never appeared in the majors and is thus eligible for this list. He’s having a resurgent campaign with the organization he spent most of his professional career with before he left to pitch in Japan, Italy, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. In 34 innings this year, González has a 3.18 ERA and a 15.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio that is among the best marks in the minors. He’s struck out 45 batters and walked only three to post a sparkling 0.971 WHIP, also making him a bullpen option for the Orioles.

Honorable mentions

Aberdeen catcher-first baseman Creed Willems (.758 OPS); Delmarva shortstop Leandro Arias (.810 OPS); Aberdeen outfielder Douglas Hodo (.771 OPS); Bowie outfielder Jud Fabian (.749 OPS); Bowie right-handed starter Seth Johnson (2.99 ERA); Low-A Delmarva right-handed starter Nestor German (1.16 ERA); and Bowie right-handed reliever Dylan Heid (1.24 ERA).

Orioles minor league All-Stars: Coby Mayo, Chayce McDermott highlight top first-half performers (2024)
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