The trade deadline deal to send primary designated hitter Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros seemed as if it might open a spot both on the Orioles’ roster and in their lineup for power-hitting outfield prospect Kyle Stowers. When it didn’t, executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said a promotion for Stowers “could happen at any time.”
The time is now, with the Orioles selecting Stowers’ contract Friday amid a collection of moves. This will mark Stowers’ second major league stint, but it figures to be far more permanent than the previous one, in which he went 1-for-7 in June as a substitute player in Toronto.
“I’d say the little Toronto stretch was like my debut,” Stowers said before Friday’s matchup with the Boston Red Sox. “And this feels a little bit more like the call-up.”
On both sides of that opportunity, Stowers raked in Triple-A Norfolk, hitting an Orioles minor league system-best 19 home runs with an OPS of .884. That performance follows a year in which he led Baltimore minor leaguers with 27 home runs to share the organization’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year award with then-top prospect Adley Rutschman.
The 24-year-old is Baltimore’s No. 11 prospect, according to Baseball America, and was the organization’s third selection in the 2019 draft behind Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson, who both have ranked as the sport’s No. 1 overall prospect. Stowers was in Friday’s lineup, batting fifth and playing right field in his Camden Yards debut with Anthony Santander at designated hitter.
Stowers’ addition comes at a time the Orioles have had their struggles offensively. Entering the series 2 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, Baltimore has lost five of its past eight games, scoring three or fewer runs in each of those defeats. Two featured the opposing starter taking a perfect game bid into the seventh inning.
“I think we can get a lot better offensively,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Hopefully, Kyle can be a part of that.
“Just feel like he’s ready to contribute for us, and he’s had a nice year in Triple-A, and we’re excited about his future and looking forward to watching him play up here.”
The Orioles opened a roster spot for Stowers by designating outfielder Brett Phillips for assignment, which leaves an opening on their 40-man roster. The team also optioned right-hander Logan Gillaspie, placed utility player Terrin Vavra on the paternity list, and recalled infielder Richie Martin and left-hander Nick Vespi.
Phillips was Baltimore’s lone trade deadline acquisition after the club dealt Mancini and All-Star closer Jorge López, having been designated by the Tampa Bay Rays and traded for cash. As an Oriole, he had two hits in 17 at-bats, striking out nine times. Hyde said he wasn’t sure when Vavra, Baltimore’s No. 14 prospect who has a .375 on-base percentage for the Orioles, will rejoin the team, though the paternity list has a maximum of three days.
Stowers will “see quite a bit of action in the outfield,” Hyde said, allowing the primary group of Santander, Austin Hays and Cedric Mullins to rest or DH. Hyde stayed away from Stowers against left-handed starters during his Toronto stint, though he posted a .977 OPS off lefties in Norfolk compared with a mark of .849 when he had a platoon advantage.
After his major league debut, Stowers hit .275/.359/.509, becoming one of the International League leaders in RBIs and extra-base hits. This season, he’s notably reduced both his strikeout and swinging strikeout rates from 2021.
“I think I’ve raised my floor a lot,” Stowers said. “I think the lows haven’t been as low as they were last year, and I think I’ve still been able to sustain some good production when I’m in those highs, as well.”
Once Vavra returns, the Orioles’ lineup could feature three of the organization’s top young hitters in him, Stowers and Rutschman. “To be able to come up together with some of your best friends is really fun,” Stowers said.
More top talent could be on the way. For example, the team’s open 40-man roster spot could eventually be used on Henderson or No. 6 prospect Jordan Westburg. Stowers shared a lineup with that pair of infielders in Norfolk, often batting third behind them.
“They’re studs,” Stowers said. “They’re really good. It was a lot of fun. Super impressed by the way they go about their business and who they are as people.”
Regardless of whether those two join him, Stowers is looking forward to helping the Orioles down the stretch.
“Super excited,” Stowers said. “I think it’s a really cool place that this team is at, pushing for the playoffs, and to get the opportunity to be a part of it and chase after something as special as that, I’m stoked for.”