Salisbury, Maryland — Until this week, with Orioles prospect Coby Mayo toiling in extended spring training and the Florida Complex League all summer, it was a small group that got to see raw power so prolific that it could only be described by the man responsible for it: “Coby Mayo power,” hitting coach Anthony Villa called it.
“Insane raw power,” Villa said. “Few people possess that.”
Now that Mayo is at Low-A Delmarva for his first crack at full-season baseball, arriving with a large contingent of 2021 draftees who have taken over the Shorebirds lineup, he’s hoping to show it off on a larger scale. Thanks to the work done at the team’s training complex in Sarasota, Florida, he and the Orioles’ minor league staff believe Mayo could unlock that prolific power more often in games.
“A kid like me, you don’t want balls on the ground,” said the 6-foot-5 Mayo, a 2020 fourth-round draft pick who signed for $1.75 million. “The more I can hit balls in the air, the more chances I have to hit the ball over the fence. That’s really the ultimate goal for me. I want to be a big power hitter in this organization and try to be like one of those big guys in the MLB one day.”
Mayo, upon arriving with the Shorebirds, said the work he did with Villa and fellow FCL coaches Brandon Becker and Zach Cole to hit more balls in the air has seen “a big, big improvement” from spring training to his promotion.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with this fence,” Mayo said, pointing to right field at Delmarva’s Perdue Stadium.
Entering Saturday, he hadn’t one over it in game action. He had three hits in his first four Low-A games through Friday after batting .329 with a 1.005 OPS and four home runs in 25 FCL games. That success, which meant the Orioles felt comfortable bumping him to full-season ball along with the college draftees who he said have “really taken him in” as they push each other to the next level, was well-earned.
Mayo certainly had the pedigree to fit in with the high picks. A University of Florida commit out of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, Mayo was a rare high school draftee for an Orioles organization that values certainty in their evaluations. But they couldn’t pass on the raw power he showed as an amateur. That, plus the arm strength that can help him stay at third base, makes for another intriguing piece on the left side of the infield on the farm, where the Orioles have revamped their prospect depth chart with Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and Joey Ortiz in recent years.
Those fast-movers could be caught eventually by Mayo, whose early professional career was stunted by the pandemic.
Mayo was at the fall instructional camp in 2020 after a lost draft year, and was getting settled in at minor league camp when he injured his knee in the first game of the spring, causing him to miss time.
Villa said he suspects Mayo views that as a “blessing in disguise” in that it allowed him more time to develop his own strength and movement plan outside the rigors of daily baseball.
Orioles hitters begin each day in the weight room with their “movement prep” exercises, which include single-leg stability, core control and rotational training to prepare them for the challenging drill work the organization’s new hitting program promotes to help spur development.
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The injury and the time away, Villa said, forced Mayo to focus more on that work and “learn how to control his body better, how to move and get into stable position and rotate through those stable postures.”
That foundation, along with the kind of individualized study the Orioles are trying to make a hallmark of their pitching program, helped Mayo make significant strides from the player he was a year ago.
“That’s one dude [Villa] that knows a lot about baseball and a lot about hitting, and whether it’s talking to him about drills, actually doing the drills, looking at video, we’ve been able to figure some things out and really show it on the field,” Mayo said.
Mayo’s progression wasn’t the first time this revamped Orioles player development staff has eschewed daily games and the shrunken affiliate structure in the minor leagues to bring along a high school draftee whose bat they believe in. Last season, at the alternate training site in Bowie, the Orioles’ hitting staff helped bring about success in a challenging environment for teenage shortstop Henderson.
Henderson has emerged as a top-100 prospect in baseball this year, and Villa sees similarities between the young infielders and their possible trajectories, albeit a year apart.
“We’re talking high-engine output, elite bat speed, elite exit velocity, but needing to get a little better control of their movements to be able to get the ball in the air more consistently to let those high-engine outputs play a little more productively,” he said of the two.
“It’s been pretty similar processes and it’s ever-evolving. They’re getting better and better at it the more they do it and take ownership of it.”