After punishing righthanded hitters at Camden Yards by changing the outfield dimensions in left field, the Orioles spent the offseason pursuing lefthanded hitters to balance their lineup.
No matter who they bring in, 25-year-old Kyle Stowers may prove to be their best option—and the 2019 supplemental second-rounder from Stanford is entering a pivotal spring training.
“He’ll have an opportunity to win a major league job,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde told reporters at the Winter Meetings. “He did some impressive things late. Took some good at-bats, some big homers. Got great experience playing in the games we were playing in against our division. Kyle’s got a ton of ability.”
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound Stowers made his major league debut as a temporary Covid callup in June. In 95 games for Triple-A Norfolk, he hit 19 home runs with an .884 OPS, while upping his slugging percentage and decreasing his strikeout rate—a difficult set of improvements to make in tandem.
Stowers found major league opportunities scarce early, and he struggled to find his footing. But he played in 13 of the Orioles’ last 15 games, starting 10, and had an .878 OPS in that stretch.
In total, he hit .253/.306/.418 with three home runs in 34 games, though he struck out nearly 30% of the time. But Stowers also ended 2021—a year in which he shared Orioles’ minor league player of the year honors with Adley Rutschman—by striking out over a third of the time in Triple-A. He then returned to overpower the level a year later.
If the same type of experience leads to improvement for Stowers this time around, the Orioles might have a candidate to push for a significant role in 2023 to help spell some of their righthanded-hitting outfielders.
“We believe in him as a hitter,” Hyde said. “He’s going to have huge power. He’s going to make some adjustments at the plate and continue to improve. And he walks. And he’s going to be able to play corner outfield defense.”
— Lefthanded reliever Nick Vespi, who didn’t allow an earned run at Triple-A Norfolk in 2022 and had bright moments in the Orioles’ bullpen when called upon, had hernia surgery in early January, the Orioles announced. He is expected to be available early in the 2023 season.