This week marks the full return of minor-league action, as all four full-season levels will be getting underway. With one of the top farm systems in the game, the Baltimore Orioles are sending plenty of talent to their affiliates to start the 2023 season.

Over two articles, I will preview the Opening Day rosters for the Triple-A Norfolk Tides, Double-A Bowie Baysox, High-A Aberdeen IronBirds, and Low-A Delmarva Shorebirds. These previews will include a full list of players from our preseason Top-50 prospects list on each team, along with some of the storylines that you will want to follow. This part of the series includes the Tides, who started their season in Durham on Friday, along with the Bowie Baysox, who begin the 2023 campaign at Hartford on Thursday.

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Norfolk Tides (International League)

Manager: Buck Britton

BSL Top-50 Prospects: RHP Grayson Rodriguez (2), OF Colton Cowser (4), LHP DL Hall (5), IF Jordan Westburg (7), SS Joey Ortiz (8), Connor Norby (9), LHP Drew Rom (15), OF Hudson Hasking (17), RHP Noah Denoyer (27), RHP Kyle Brnovich (35)*, RHP Chris Vallimont (37), C Maverick Handley (43)
*Currently on IL

Overview: The Tides enter this season with what looks like an ideal Triple-A roster, combining an impressive list of prospects with players who have major-league experience. While minor-league rosters are naturally prone to turnover, there should be plenty of reinforcements coming up from Bowie or down from Baltimore to keep the Tides interesting all season.

What is next for Grayson Rodriguez? Rodriguez is returning to Norfolk after the Orioles made a controversial decision to leave him off their Opening Day roster. The right-hander dominated for the Tides last year before suffering a lat injury in June, and there is no reason to expect that he cannot do the same again this year. In his first outing on Friday, Rodriguez struggled with his command in a no-decision against a tough Durham lineup. He will need to get better from there, and let the results speak for themselves as the Orioles wait to make their next move with him.

How will the infield situation play out? For now, the Tides boast three infielders that cracked offseason Top-100 prospect lists in Westburg, Ortiz, and Norby. All three appeared at the level last year, with Westburg’s 91 games accounting for by far the most Triple-A time among the trio. His numbers there last year (.274/.361/.508, 18 homers) and impressive spring training show that he’s ready for a shot at the major-league roster. Ortiz and Norby could get there as well this year, especially if Ortiz sustains his offensive success from a year ago and Norby continues to improve his defense at second base. Of course, the performance of the major-league infield will be a factor for all three of these players. If the Orioles fail to compete, it will be hard to deny them their opportunities. However, if a productive infield is part of a push for the playoffs, then Westburg, Ortiz, and Norby could still get part-time play at the majors or become trade chips if the Orioles add to the major-league roster before the August 1 deadline.

Keep an eye on: Haskin will be Rule 5 eligible after this season and will make a strong case for a 40-man roster spot if he builds off his productive 2022. Cowser should see major-league time this year, especially if he can improve his results against breaking balls and have a little more success against lefties. Speaking of lefties, expect Hall to pitch as a starter until he gives the Orioles a reason to move him to the bullpen.

Bowie Baysox (Eastern League)

Manager: Kyle Moore

BSL Top 50 Prospects: 3B Coby Mayo (6), OF Heston Kjerstad (11), LHP Cade Povich (14), RHP Chayce McDermott (18), OF John Rhodes (20), IF Cesar Prieto (25), RHP Justin Armbruester (28), RHP Carlos Tavera (34), OF Donta’ Williams (41).

Overview: The Baysox are a fairly balanced team on paper, with some of the standouts from last year’s staff at Aberdeen joining talented arms that spent time at Bowie in 2022. While the lineup might not be as deep as the one the Baysox fielded over the final weeks of last season, it should feature a potent middle of the order.

Power, Power, and more power: Mayo and Kjerstad should enjoy hitting in the friendly confines of Prince George’s Stadium. The expectations for Kjerstad have certainly risen in recent months, thanks to strong performances in the Arizona Fall League and spring training. Mayo, meanwhile, flashed some power in an injury-limited stint with the Baysox last year, belting 5 homers in 34 games. The 21-year-old displays impressive power to go with a strong arm at third base, making him a prime candidate to shoot up Top-100 prospect lists with a productive season.

How far can Cade Povich rise? Bowie starts the year with a talented pitching staff, but Povich is perhaps the most intriguing arm. Acquired from the Minnesota Twins as part of the Jorge Lopez trade at last year’s deadline, Povich struck out 148 batters in 114 innings, thanks to a deep arsenal that includes a fastball that has touched 97 mph, along with a curveball, sweeper, cutter, and changeup. If he is successful this season, look for more national outlets to join ESPN in naming him a Top-100 prospect.

Keep an eye on: McDermott revealed during an interview on On The Verge that he is ditching his changeup in favor of a splitter. The right-hander had problems locating his changeup and will hope that the splitter compliments a fastball that is at times elite. Armbruester, meanwhile, could reach Norfolk quickly if he repeats the success that he had at Bowie last season (63 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings against 16 walks). If there is a breakout candidate offensively, it could be Rhodes, who performed well at Aberdeen last season (.817 OPS, 128 wRC+ in 58 games) before struggling at the plate in 25 games with the Baysox.

Look for previews of Aberdeen and Delmarva’s season tomorrow. Bob Phelan, Nick Stevens, and I will also cover all four teams in our next episode of On The Verge, which will be released on Monday night.

Zach Spedden
Zach Spedden

Orioles Analyst

A graduate of the University of Massachusetts, and Loyola University; Spedden has previously spent time in the Washington Nationals organization as a videographer for the Hagerstown Suns. As a blogger, Spedden is an Editor / Writer for the Suns fan club. Additionally, he contributes to The Nats Blog as a prospect writer, and Ballpark Digest. For BSL, Spedden covers the Orioles Minor Leagues. Co-Host of The Verge: https://anchor.fm/the-verge

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