HomeTrending MLB NewsOrioles to promote yet another top prospect

Orioles to promote yet another top prospect

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The Orioles are planning to call up top prospect Heston Kjerstad on Tuesday, reports Jacob Calvin Meyer of the Baltimore Sun. The 25-year-old slugger is already on the 40-man roster, but Baltimore will need to make a move to get him onto the 26-man roster.

Kjerstad, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft, will bolster what’s already a dominant lineup. The O’s have six more homers than any team in MLB (35) and are batting .261/.316/.464 as a club. Kjerstad should fit right in. He’s taken 102 plate appearances in Norfolk this season and already bashed 10 home runs en route to a ludicrous .349/.431/.744 batting line (189 wRC+).

The Orioles placed corner outfielder Austin Hays on the injured list due to a calf strain Monday, and Kjerstad will provide them with another option in the outfield. First baseman/designated hitter Ryan Mountcastle was also absent from Monday night’s lineup due to a knee issue. The team has only listed Mountcastle as day-to-day thus far, but Kjerstad — a corner outfielder and first baseman — is a natural replacement if Mountcastle needs another day or two off or even requires a trip to the injured list himself.

The O’s aren’t exactly lacking for productive options at any spot Kjerstad could fit into the lineup, but he can certainly help keep their regulars fresh and provide some thump off the bench on days he’s not starting. Colton Cowser, Cedric Mullins and Anthony Santander have all been productive in the outfield, while Mountcastle and Ryan O’Hearn have thrived as the team’s primary options at designated hitter and first base. Baltimore selected the contract of catcher David Bañuelos last night, bringing him up to the big leagues for the second time this season, but Bañuelos has a full slate of option years and can freely be sent to Norfolk if the O’s don’t want to continue carrying three catchers.

Kjerstad entered the 2024 season ranked as the game’s No. 26 prospect at FanGraphs. He landed 29th on MLB.com’s top-100, 41st at Baseball Prospectus, 42nd at Baseball America, 48th per ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel and 62nd per The Athletic’s Keith Law. Kjerstad draws praise for his plus or better raw power, his penchant for making hard contact and his above-average arm in the outfield. He’s not especially fleet of foot and is a bat-over-glove prospect, but the lefty-swinging slugger is expected to hit more than enough to be a regular in Baltimore’s lineup for years to come. For now, Santander’s presence impedes Kjerstad’s path to an everyday role, assuming everyone’s healthy, but Santander is a free agent following the 2024 season.

From a service time vantage point, there are still enough days left on the regular season calendar for Kjerstad to accrue a full year. He picked up 18 days in 2023, meaning he needs 154 days of MLB service in 2024 to get there. He may be optioned back to Norfolk once everyone’s back to full strength, but Kjerstad’s production there was also increasingly difficult to ignore regardless. If he’s in the big leagues for good, he’ll be controllable through the 2029 season and arbitration-eligible following the 2026 campaign.

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