Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias often speaks of his desire to see prospects “graduate Triple-A” in terms of performance before promoting them to the majors. Jordan Westburg’s cap and gown will at last come Monday.
After more than a year of strong performances with Triple-A Norfolk, the Orioles are calling up Westburg, a 24-year-old infielder Baseball America ranks as the No. 4 prospect in the organization and No. 46 in the sport, ESPN reported late Sunday afternoon. Baltimore will need to make a corresponding move on both its active and 40-man rosters before Monday night’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
In 158 games with the Tides across the past two seasons, Westburg hit .283/.366/.533 with 36 home runs and 128 runs driven in. Promoted to Norfolk alongside eventual top overall prospect Gunnar Henderson early last June, Westburg had to wait much longer for his first opportunity in the majors. Westburg had 714 Triple-A plate appearances before his promotion, compared with Henderson’s 295.
Like Henderson, Westburg was Baltimore’s second selection in a draft, taken 30th overall in 2020 out of Mississippi State a year after the Orioles drafted Henderson out of an Alabama high school atop the second round with pick No. 42. His college experience gave him an early leg up on Henderson, but the pair spent much of their climbs up Baltimore’s farm system sharing infields. Most of Westburg’s defensive appearances in the minors came at shortstop, but he often ceded the position to Henderson and Joey Ortiz while seeing regular time at second and third base.
Both beat him to the majors. Henderson was called up last August, baseball’s top prospect arriving amid the Orioles’ unexpected playoff push. Ortiz, also a member of Baltimore’s 2019 draft class, was eligible for the Rule 5 draft this past offseason and thus was added to the organization’s 40-man roster, making it easier for the club to promote him over Westburg when a need arose for a right-handed-hitting infielder early this year.
Earlier this month, the Orioles added Josh Lester, a minor league veteran, to the 40-man roster and promoted him over Westburg, with manager Brandon Hyde explaining Lester’s call-up by saying the club sought another left-handed bat ahead of a string of matchups with right-handed starters. In his professional career, Westburg has fared far better against right-handed pitching, posting an OPS more than 350 points higher this season when facing same-handed pitchers compared with when he has the platoon advantage.
If Westburg had any frustrations over being bypassed, he never let them show in his play. He finished 2022 with an .852 OPS, 27 home runs and 106 RBIs between Norfolk and Double-A Bowie, recognized as the organization’s minor league player of the year. This season with the Tides, Westburg has hit .295/.372/.567 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs in 67 games. Westburg also made six defensive appearances in the outfield for Norfolk, reflecting the versatility he now brings to Baltimore.
Westburg’s performance reflects the praise teammates and coaches heaped on him in spring training, with many choosing the word “consistent” as the one that best defines him and his game. He was one of six infield prospects in Baltimore’s major league camp who appeared on at least one offseason list of baseball’s top 100 prospects, and only he and Henderson lasted until the end of spring. A late-camp injury to one of the Orioles’ established infielders might have resulted in Westburg landing on the opening-day roster.
Instead, his wait continued months into the season. On Monday, it will finally end.
Source: Berkshire mont