This O's prospect is staying in attack mode

June 18th, 2023

CHICAGO -- Last year, Justin Armbruester got his first taste of the Double-A level. And he pitched quite well during that 14-game stint with Bowie, recording a 3.69 ERA and notching 63 strikeouts over 63 1/3 innings.

So Armbruester, the Orioles’ No. 30 prospect per MLB Pipeline, knew what to expect from Eastern League competition heading into the 2023 season, where he’s pitching again for the Baysox. It’s helped him put up even better numbers thus far.

Through 12 starts, Armbruester has pitched to a 2.47 ERA, posting a 1.15 WHIP and recording 43 strikeouts in 62 innings. The 24-year-old right-hander had his first tough start of the year on June 8, when he allowed six runs in five innings at Erie. However, he bounced back by pitching a seven-inning complete game on Wednesday, when he allowed two runs vs. Richmond.

It was the 11th time Armbruester has allowed two or fewer earned runs in a start this season. The only outlier was the June 8 outing at Erie.

So, what’s been the key to Armbruester’s consistency to begin the year?

“The biggest thing that I’ve been working on is just trying to fill up the zone with multiple pitches,” Armbruester said recently. “And then being able to throw those same pitches out of the zone for chase pitches. Kind of just really attacking the zone and keeping the hitters off-balance is giving me a lot of success early in the year.”

Armbruester has never pitched above Double-A. But with 26 outings under his belt at that level, the 2021 12th-round Draft pick could be a candidate to be moved up to Triple-A Norfolk later in the year.

Hall heads to Sarasota for training
DL Hall, Baltimore’s No. 5 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 77 overall prospect, won’t be pitching for Norfolk in the near future. That’s because the 24-year-old left-hander is going to Sarasota, Fla., where he’ll intensify his physical training at the Orioles' Spring Training complex.

The plan is for Hall to pitch on the back fields to keep his arm going. However, the primary focus for him will be building up strength in an attempt to increase his velocity.

Hall had a 4.57 ERA through 11 starts with Norfolk, but he hadn’t pitched more than 3 1/3 innings in any of his past five outings. The Orioles had Hall in a “deloading” phase as part of this process to try to get his velocity up.

During the offseason, Hall experienced lower lumbar discomfort, which delayed his start to Spring Training. Since then, Baltimore has had this plan in place for his 2023 season.

Kjerstad heating up at new level
This shouldn’t come as a surprise -- Heston Kjerstad, the Orioles’ No. 4 prospect and MLB Pipeline’s No. 49 overall prospect, has gotten his bat going in Triple-A.

Through 10 games with Norfolk (entering Sunday), Kjerstad was slashing .316/.366/.632 with one double, one triple, three homers and three RBIs. The 24-year-old outfielder/first baseman was promoted after posting a .310/.383/.576 slash line in 46 games in Double-A.

Kjerstad went deep in back-to-back games, as he hit a solo homer Thursday and then another one in the first game of Norfolk’s doubleheader vs. Worcester on Saturday.