The Baltimore Orioles’ Heston Kjerstad and his Sublime Spring
For the Baltimore Orioles this Spring has allowed the organization and fans alike to gauge the development of their thriving farm system. Notable prospects invited to major league camp include 2022 first overall pick Jackson Holliday, consensus top 100 prospect Colton Cowser, and AAA star Jordan Westburg.
While all of these prospects have shown flashes of brilliance at points, one player has stood head and shoulders above the rest. Heston Kjerstad, the 2nd overall pick in 2022, has absolutely RAKED. In his very first Spring Training game he was perfect on the day recording a single and two homers in quick succession.
In an albeit limited 19 at bats, Kjerstad has slashed .474/.500/.947 this Spring. For those counting at home, that’s an OPS of 1.447. This places him fifth among all batters in MLB with at least 19 ABs this Spring Training. O’s fans may be pleased to hear that the owner of the fourth highest OPS under these stipulations belongs to former Oriole Trey Mancini.
Kjerstad is a power hitter who has flown under the radar since the O’s drafted him out of Arkansas thanks in large part to a myocarditis scare he had in 2020. After two full years out of baseball Kjerstad made his debut in 2022 and tore it up with Single-A Delmarva. Slashing .463/.551/.650 for the Shorebirds, the former Razorback was promoted to High-A Aberdeen after just 22 games with Delmarva.
In 43 games with the Aberdeen Ironbirds Kjerstad cooled off from his hot start and ended the regular season with a triple-slash of .233/.312/.362. Following the season however he played in the Arizona Fall League and caught fire once again, batting .357/.385/.622 while hitting five home runs in just 22 games. His efforts were rewarded as he won the Arizona Fall League MVP award for 2022.
While his ETA to the Majors is currently 2024, if Kjerstad can continue to perform at the level he has done, the 24-year old has a real shot at knocking on the door of the major league ball club towards the end of the 2023 season. Given his impressive Fall and Spring, Heston Kjerstad will likely start the year with AA Bowie. If he does manage to start 2023 with the Baysox, he has an opportunity to emulate the ascension of top prospect Gunnar Henderson, who jumped all the way from Bowie to the majors in 2022.