The Orioles’ second-best hitting and pitching prospects still in the minor leagues dominated last week and were honored as a result.
Outfielder Colton Cowser was named the International Player of the Week after posting a 1.477 OPS for Triple-A Norfolk, and pitcher Cade Povich won the Eastern League Pitcher of the Week Award after his spectacular start for Double-A Bowie.
Cowser, the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect still in the minors behind Jackson Holliday, according to Baseball America, continued his torrid start to the season, going 11-for-22 with nine runs, five RBIs, two doubles, two home runs and nine walks. He reached base in 20 of his 31 plate appearances.
The 23-year-old reached base in five of the Tides’ six games and tallied four multi-hit games. On Thursday, he went 3-for-3 with two home runs and two walks. He then reached base five times on Saturday, going 3-for-4 with two walks.
In 36 games, Cowser is slashing .336/.477/.567 for a whopping 1.044 OPS. His .477 on-base percentage is the best in the International League. He’s walking nearly once a game and almost as much as he’s striking out, with 35 free passes versus 38 strikeouts.
Cowser went 2-for-24 in his first week of the season with 10 punchouts. Since then, he’s hitting .391 with seven home runs, a 1.197 OPS and more walks (30) than strikeouts (28).
Povich, the Orioles’ No. 2 pitching prospect still in the minors behind DL Hall, was picked as the best pitcher in the Eastern League after striking out 10 batters in five shutout innings for the second time this season. A little over two weeks ago, he tallied 10 punchouts while allowing just three base runners; on Thursday, he allowed four batters to reach safely (three hits, one walk). The 23-year-old leads the Eastern League in strikeouts with 44.
Povich, who was one of four pitchers the Orioles received from the Minnesota Twins in return for Jorge López, has a 3.38 ERA in 26 2/3 innings this season with a 1.16 WHIP and an impressive 40% strikeout rate. For comparison, Grayson Rodriguez, the top pitching prospect in the sport, struck out 39.9% of the batters he faced in his time in Double-A.
It wasn’t just Cowser and Povich who stood out on the farm last week, though. That’s why each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down five of the top performers in the Orioles’ prospect ranks and hand out some superlatives for those who didn’t make that cut.
1. Triple-A Norfolk left-hander DL Hall
In late April, Hall was promoted to Baltimore as the 27th man for its doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers. He provided three innings of relief and was sent back to Triple-A that night. His two outings since have been the best of his season. After pitching five scoreless innings two weeks ago, Hall struck out nine across six innings of two-run ball in his start last week. In his previous three outings, including the one with the Orioles, the left-hander has struck out 24 batters in 14 innings. Just as important as the results, though, is the fact that Hall went six innings for the first time since July 6 and only the seventh time of his professional career.
2. Double-A Bowie infielder César Prieto
Prieto turned 24 on Wednesday and celebrated with his second of four straight multi-hit games. The infield prospect went 2-for-4 on his birthday and 11-for-21 during the week to continue his excellent start to the season. The Cuba native hit two doubles, a triple and a home run for a 1.402 OPS last week while playing second base, shortstop and third. In his second season in the Orioles’ organization after agreeing to a $650,000 signing bonus in January 2022, Prieto has adjusted to Double-A pitching after struggling against it last season. His .392 batting average leads all qualified hitters in the Eastern League, while his .984 OPS ranks fourth.
3. High-A Aberdeen right-hander Jean Pinto
Prieto was far from the only international acquisition to excel last week. Pinto, a right-hander the Orioles acquired in the José Iglesias trade with the Los Angeles Angels in December 2020, started two games for the IronBirds and struck out 15 batters in 8 1/3 innings. He fired 4 1/3 no-hit innings last Tuesday with seven punchouts and then tossed four innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts. On the season, the 22-year-old Venezuela native has a 2.08 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in 30 1/3 innings with a 39.2% strikeout rate.
4. Double-A Bowie infielder Coby Mayo
Mayo might not be hitting nearly .400 like Prieto or smashing home runs with ease like Heston Kjerstad, but he kept up his steady campaign last week. The 21-year-old third baseman went 5-for-20 with two doubles, a triple, a home run and six walks for a 1.023 OPS. Mayo, the Orioles’ No. 9 prospect, is slashing .267/.403/.495 — good for a .898 OPS — in just his second full season of professional ball.
5. High-A Aberdeen right-hander Alex Pham
Povich might have won his league’s weekly pitching award, but he wasn’t the Orioles prospect who struck out the most batters in a game. That was Pham, who punched out a career-high 11 across five scoreless innings of one-hit ball Friday. The scoreless outing was nothing new for Pham, though, as the 23-year-old extended his streak without allowing a run to 17 innings. The last time he allowed a run was in his third inning on April 16. On the season, the 2021 19th-round pick has a 1.93 ERA in 23 1/3 innings with a 35.8% strikeout rate.
The top prospect not featured so far
Jackson Holliday last week moved up to No. 7 on Baseball America’s prospect list, and this week he jumped nine spots to No. 3 on MLB Pipeline’s ranking. The 19-year-old shortstop maintained his on-base streak to begin the year, reaching safely in all six games last week with High-A Aberdeen and each of his first 29 completed contests in 2023. Holliday went 6-for-18 with five walks, a double and a homer and posted another week with an OPS above 1.000. Holliday is already the best hitter on the IronBirds with a .940 OPS, and across Low-A and High-A, he’s slashing .349/.485/.576.
International acquisition of the week
In his first year of full-season ball, Samuel Basallo is proving every bit worth the $1.3 million signing bonus the Orioles gave him in 2021 out of the Dominican Republic. Last week with Low-A Delmarva, Basallo, who is rated as Baltimore’s top international prospect by Baseball America, went 8-for-22 with two doubles, a home run and six RBIs. On the season, the 18-year-old catcher is slashing .318/.350/.527.
Time to give a shout-out to …
Justin Armbruester. While Povich is logging double-digit strikeout performances and winning weekly awards, Armbruester is right behind him as one of the best pitchers in Double-A. Armbruester, Baltimore’s No. 3 pitching prospect still in the minors, tossed five innings of one-run ball last week for his sixth consecutive start allowing two or fewer runs to begin the season. His 1.86 ERA ranks second among qualified starters in the Eastern League. In 29 innings, the 6-foot-4 right-hander has given up just six runs while striking out 26.
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