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  • Writer's pictureGrant DeVivo

Heston Kjerstad Returns to the Orioles

Updated: May 1

What should we expect from the Orioles' No. 4 prospect at the big league level?

*Cover Photo Credit: The Baltimore Banner

Yesterday, the Orioles announced that their No. 4 prospect, outfielder Heston Kjerstad, was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to join the big league club in Anaheim. The Orioles are currenty in the middle of a 3-game set with the Los Angeles Angels.

We all saw what Kjerstad was doing at Triple-A. I mean, it was just unfair. MLB's No. 32 prospect was batting .349, and he was leading the way in home runs (10) and RBI (30) all while slugging .744 and putting together an OPS of 1.176. It was ridiculous, and I could not believe it.

MLB's No. 32 prospect Heston Kjerstad is back with the Orioles. Photo: Kate Kirsch

The hits he was getting were missiles. The home runs he was hitting were monstrous. We're talking 450 ft. bombs pullside, and even some long distances the opposite way. Everything about Kjerstad's swing with Norfolk was excellent. It seemed like everyday I woke up, and I scrolled across Instagram to see that Kjerstad hat hit another bomb. It's almost like Kjerstad walked up to the plate "feelin' good like I should," as Surfaces would say in their hit song.

We all knew that a promotion to the big leagues was near. Now, it's happened. He is going to get a second chance at the show.

Of course, as is the situation with Jackson Holliday right now, I expect there to be growing pains. Last night proved that, as the 25-year-old went 0-for-4 with 3 strikeouts in his first game back in the MLB. Stuff like that is expected as a highly-touted prospect transitions from Triple-A to the show.

Yet, I do expect Kjerstad's transition to be fairly smooth and rather successful. After he dominated AA and AAA last season (.303 BA, 21 HR, 55 RBI), he had a brief 13-game sample size with the Orioles last fall and even made their playoff roster. I personally thought that Kjerstad did fairly well in the bigs last year. He looked just the same as he did in the Minor Leagues, which was confident and unphased. A .233 batting average with a .748 OPS and 2 home runs in 13 games is very respectable for someone like Kjerstad. Him getting a base hit off future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander proves that he can hit with the rest of the at the show.

What Kjerstad needs to do is keep his confidence that he had in Triple-A and make the ncessary adjustments to his approach and pitch selection as he faces more difficult pitching with the Orioles. What the team needs to do is keep finding him more at-bats and playing opportunities as opposed to playing him every other day, pinch-hitting him, letting him ride the bench, and so on. That trick worked with Colton Cowser. Look at the hot streak that he has been on since he became a starter.

Yet, I understand that it is difficult to find everyday reps for Kjerstad right now. As Austin Hays continues to struggle and is now on the 10-day IL, Cowser is seeing everyday reps in the outfield. First base and DH is a toss up between Ryan Mountcastle, the hot-hitting Ryan O'Hearn who has excelled in his role for the Orioles, and Adley Rutschman on the days where he is not catching. I understand the difficulty in finding the best spot for Kjerstad. However, he needs to play. He is back, and the Orioles need to make adjustments to the lineup once again in order to develop Kjerstad and get him hot. He is too talented to be sitting on the bench or missing opportunities in the lineup in favor of other guys who aren't coming through.

Orioles fans should be excited that Kjerstad is back, and I can feel for the most part that they are. Now, the Orioles and Kjerstad need to take the right steps together in acheiving success. If that happens, then look out. You're looking at one of the best young power hitters in the American League East.

The Hes Express is here, Birdland. All aboard!

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