The Orioles announced they’ve selected outfielder Kyle Stowers and right-hander Rico Garcia onto the major league roster as designated COVID-19 “substitutes.” In corresponding moves, they’ve placed outfielder Anthony Santander and lefty Keegan Akin on the restricted list. That’s the standard practice for players who haven’t been vaccinated against COVID-19 on teams headed for a series in Toronto. The Canadian government prohibits unvaccinated athletes from crossing the border, so Santander and Akin will miss the next four games.
Stowers is the more notable of the two call-ups, as he’s now in line to make his major league debut. A supplemental second-round pick out of Stanford back in 2019, the left-handed hitter has been one of the organization’s most interesting prospects since that point. Stowers appeared among the top 30 farmhands in a quality Baltimore system each season from 2020-22, according to Baseball America, with the outlet recently placing him as the O’s #9 minor league talent.
Primarily a corner outfielder, Stowers’ calling card is his bat speed and power potential. BA graded his raw power as plus-plus (a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale), and he popped 27 home runs and 23 doubles across three minor league levels last season. Stowers drew plenty of walks as well but struck out in more than 30% of his plate appearances at each stop, and both Baseball America and Keith Law of the Athletic raised questions about how often he swings through pitches inside the strike zone.
To Stowers’ credit, he’s cut back on his strikeout rate thus far in the 2022 campaign. Through 209 plate appearances at Triple-A Norfolk, he’s hitting .253/.356/.545 with 12 homers and a more manageable 25.4% strikeout percentage. That’s still a few points north of the league average, but it’s unquestionably an improvement relative to last season and hasn’t come at the cost of any of Stowers’ extra-base impact.
Garcia, meanwhile, is headed to the majors for the first time in two years. The Honolulu native suited up with the Rockies and Giants between 2019-20, tossing 16 innings of 7.31 ERA ball between the division rivals. Garcia missed all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery, and he was limited to a minor league deal this past winter. He has a 1.93 ERA across 18 2/3 innings between three levels, striking out an excellent 37.2% of opponents along the way.
That Baltimore specified both Stowers and Garcia are COVID replacements is notable, as they’ll each be occupying a temporary spot on the 40-man roster. Both players can be taken off the roster and returned to Norfolk when Santander and Akin are eligible to return on Friday, and that seems the likeliest course of action.
Stowers, in particular, figures to land a permanent roster spot in the relatively near future, though. He’ll need to be added to the 40-man at the start of next offseason to keep him from being taken in the Rule 5 draft, and Baltimore could bring him up for an extended look against big league arms before too long given his strong high minors showing.
In other O’s news, the club announced that infielder Chris Owings has passed through release waivers unclaimed. He’s now a free agent. Baltimore designated Owings for assignment last week after a .107/.254/.143 start to the season.