HomeMLB RumorsOrioles Reassign Jackson Holliday, Option Heston Kjerstad And Kyle Stowers

Orioles Reassign Jackson Holliday, Option Heston Kjerstad And Kyle Stowers

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The Orioles announced that they have optioned outfielders Heston Kjerstad and Kyle Stowers while catcher David Bañuelos, infielders Jackson Holliday and Coby Mayo, infielder/outfielder Connor Norby and right-hander Albert Suárez have been reassigned to minor league camp.

Holliday not making the club registers as a surprise, despite his youth. He just turned 20 in December but has seemed to be on a beeline for the majors. Last year, he went through Single-A, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A, succeeding at every stop. He came into this year as the consensus top prospect in the league and was invited to big league camp. He could hardly have done much more to earn a spot, as he slashed .311/.354/.600 here in the spring, but it seems that wasn’t enough for the Orioles to add him to their major league roster.

Instead, he’ll go to Triple-A and await his debut. The move could have repercussions for his path to free agency and arbitration, depending on how long it takes him to get the call. A major league season lasts 187 days but it takes 172 for a player to earn a full year of service time. That means Holliday could still get to the one-year mark if he’s called up in the first couple of weeks of the season, though the O’s may be motivated to not let that happen. If he can’t get to one year in 2024, then he won’t be on track to get to six years and free agency by the end of 2029.

The latest collective bargaining agreement contains measures to incentivize teams to add top prospects to their roster and discourage service time manipulation. A player can still earn a full year of service time, even if not called up early enough, if he finishes in the top two in Rookie of the Year voting. Additionally, teams that carry a prospect on the roster long enough to get a traditional full year of service time can net themselves an extra draft pick if the player wins Rookie of the Year or finishes top three in the voting for Most Valuable Player or Cy Young during their pre-arbitration seasons. To qualify for these measures, a player has to be on at least two of the top 100 prospect lists at MLB.com, ESPN or Baseball America.

As mentioned, Holliday is the consensus number one prospect in the league and all of that is therefore in play. The Orioles already saw this play out in 2022 when Adley Rutschman was injured for the start of the year and was slated to come up shy of one year of service, but finished second in ROY voting and earned that full year anyway.

It seems neither the incentives nor the disincentives swayed the Orioles much and they will keep Holliday in the minors for now. That seemingly leaves Gunnar Henderson as the everyday shortstop while Jordan Westburg and Ramón Urías handle second and third base. That could perhaps leave a bench spot open for Kolten Wong, who triggered his opt-out today, giving the O’s 48 hours to decide about him.

It’s also somewhat surprising that Kjerstad and Stowers got sent down, but perhaps less so. The O’s have a full outfield consisting of Cedric Mullins, Austin Hays and Anthony Santander, with Ryan Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn sharing first base and the designated hitter spot. Colton Cowser is also around and should be in the mix.

Stowers has hit just .207/.267/.331 in the majors but has much better numbers in the minors and is having a great spring. He has seven homers in Grapefruit League play and a line of .256/.267/.744, but he’ll have to serve as depth for the time being. Kjerstad didn’t show as much this spring, hitting just .265/.294/.286, but he made a nice debut in the bigs late last year. Regardless, he will also have to wait for his next major league opportunity.

The Orioles figure to have one of the most talented Triple-A teams this year, at least to begin the season. As injuries crop up throughout the year, as they do for all clubs, they are the one best positioned to find suitable replacements waiting in the wings.

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