O's call up No. 4 prospect Kjerstad for 3rd MLB stint

June 25th, 2024

After the Orioles’ bats went cold in Houston, they promoted a slugger who could potentially help get the offense going.

Baltimore called up outfielder (the club’s No. 4 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 21 overall prospect) on Monday before the team's three-game series vs. Cleveland. To make room on the roster for Kjerstad, the club designated infielder/outfielder for assignment. Kjerstad started in left field and went 2-for-4 with a double and a single in the Orioles' 3-2 loss to the Guardians on Monday.

He also worked an impressive 13-pitch at-bat against Cleveland reliever Hunter Gaddis in the eighth inning, ultimately flying out to end the frame.

This is the third big league stint for Kjerstad, who hit .143 (2-for-14) in seven games for the O’s earlier this season. The 25-year-old received his first callup to The Show last year, when he went 7-for-30 (.233) with one double, two homers and three RBIs in limited playing time across 13 games in September and October.

But Kjerstad has mashed for Triple-A Norfolk this season. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft owns a .300/.397/.601 slash line with 14 doubles, one triple, 16 home runs and 58 RBIs in 56 games for the Tides.

"Unreal bat," shortstop Gunnar Henderson said on Monday. "Some of the best pure hitting I've seen, and some of the furthest balls I've seen hit in BP. He's a really good dude and I'm looking forward to seeing him in the lineup."

The Orioles, who got swept by the Astros during a three-game series in Houston over the weekend, have scored only two runs over their past two games (via a pair of Jordan Westburg solo homers). The bats cooled off after Baltimore had scored 28 runs over its previous two games.

Maton was recalled on Wednesday, when Westburg’s status was uncertain due to left hip discomfort.

The Orioles needed infield depth, so they called up Maton (who is out of Minor League options) and sent down Kyle Stowers. But Westburg avoided the injured list. Now, Kjerstad fills the role previously occupied by Stowers -- a left-handed-hitting outfielder who can make sporadic starts and provide pop off the bench. He joins a crowded Orioles outfield with Anthony Santander, Cedric Mullins, Colton Cowser, Austin Hays and Ryan O'Hearn.

"This is a good team problem," manager Brandon Hyde said. "We have Cowser and Hays sitting on the bench today. [Ryan Mountcastle] is not playing. When you have a bunch of talented players, it’s tough to get everybody the playing time they want or maybe on 20 other teams they would get. Right now, it’s a little bit of ‘wait your turn.’ I think everybody understands it. It’s not easy. They’ve all handled it extremely well.”

Kjerstad has proven he can handle Triple-A pitching and has a ton of offensive potential, though, so perhaps he’ll get more playing time than in his previous tenures in the Majors.

"As a player, you want to play everyday you want to be out there in the lineup, but it’s not always that way with the guys we have," Kjerstad said. "That’s out of my hands. Everybody who makes that decision in this org, they’re really good at what they do and there is a reason for the madness and I stand behind it.”

Said Hyde: “It’s definitely tricky. There are other guys we want to play also. But in this stretch with limited off-days, maybe it's a little bit easier to rotate guys around. Heston has been swinging the bat really well in Triple-A, and we’ll see if he can get some at-bats up here.”