The Orioles are poised to promote top infield prospect Jordan Westburg prior to tomorrow’s game against the Reds, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Baltimore will need to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate Westburg in addition to clearing space for him on the active roster, though those moves have not yet been announced. Passan adds that Westburg will be in the starting lineup tomorrow for his major league debut.
Westburg was selected 30th overall by Baltimore in the first round of the 2020 draft. He immediately impressed with the bat in his first professional season, slashing .285/.389/.479 in 506 trips to the plate while climbing from Single-A all the way to Double-A over the course of the 2021 campaign. While those numbers were certainly impressive, his roughly league average 104 wRC+ in 30 Double-A games did leave questions as to whether he would be able to dominant in the upper levels of the minors the way he had in A-ball.
The youngster answered those questions in a big way with his performance in 2023. After showing improvement across 47 games at the Double-A level with a .247/.344/.473 slash line, Westburg went on to take another step forward with a strong showing in Triple-A during his age-23 season. In 91 games at the level last season, Westburg slashed an impressive .274/.361/.508 with the lowest strikeout rate of his career and 46 extra base hits, including 18 home runs.
After an excellent 2022 campaign, Westburg entered the 2023 campaign rated as roughly a top-75 prospect in the sport by each of MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, and Baseball Prospectus. He’s since delivered on that promise by posting the best numbers of his career across 67 games in a return to Triple-A. In 301 plate appearances this season, Westburg has slashed .295/.372/.567 with a wRC+ of 131, a strikeout rate of just 21.3%, and .404 wOBA.
Given those impressive numbers, it’s no wonder why the Orioles have made the decision to pull the trigger on Westburg’s promotion despite the club’s crowded infield picture. Gunnar Henderson, of course, is entrenched on the left side of the infield with appearances in 67 of the club’s 76 games this season. That leaves Westburg likely to mix in alongside the likes of Jorge Mateo, Ramon Urias, and Adam Frazier up the middle, though Frazier has also seen time in the outfield this season while Urias has occasionally stepped in at first base with Ryan Mountcastle on the injured list.
Of the aforementioned trio, only Urias has hit above league average this season with a wRC+ of 101. That being said, Mateo’s glove at shortstop ranks in the 89th percentile of qualified fielders per Statcast, meaning he’ll likely draw starts even as his bat has cooled off significantly after a hot start to the season. That leaves the likes of Frazier and Joey Ortiz most likely to lose out on playing time in favor of Westburg. Ortiz, in particular, stands out as a potential candidate to be optioned in favor of Westburg, as the 24-year-old youngster has gotten into just 15 games with the club this season, slashing .212/.206/.242 in 35 plate appearances.
Westburg’s promotion is the latest in a line of recent top prospect promotions that began with the debut of catcher Adley Rutschman last year. Since then, Henderson, Ortiz, and Grayson Rodriguez are among the youngster to make their debut for the Orioles, though Ortiz and Rodriguez have yet to establish themselves fully at the major league level. The youth movement in Baltimore has paid dividends, as the club has followed up a surprisingly competitive 2022 campaign with a 47-29 record that leaves them both in second place in an extremely competitive AL East division and in the driver’s seat of the AL Wild Card race.