Orioles recall top outfield prospect Kjerstad

April 24th, 2024

ANAHEIM -- When Austin Hays landed on the injured list on Monday with a left calf strain, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Orioles would promote one of the many top outfield prospects performing at Triple-A Norfolk. That is indeed the case.

Baltimore promoted outfielder on Tuesday and optioned catcher David Bañuelos to Triple-A Norfolk. Kjerstad is MLB Pipeline’s No. 29 overall prospect and No. 4 in the Orioles' system.

It was a quick turnaround for Kjerstad, who had just landed in Norfolk on Monday after playing a game in Jacksonville on Sunday.

"I was actually in the airport grabbing by bags from Norfolk coming from Jacksonville when the manager called me and said 'I hope you're ready to catch another flight and get to the team in L.A.,'" Kjerstad said about how he found out about the promotion.

Three flights -- and many hours later -- Kjerstad was in Southern California late Monday night and back with an Orioles team that is off to a scorching-hot 15-7 start. He'll look to add more offense to a group that is already one of the best in the Majors -- the Orioles lead the Majors with 35 home runs entering Tuesday's game and rank in the top five in runs (126) and OPS (.780).

Selected No. 2 overall by the Orioles in the 2020 MLB Draft, Kjerstad made his debut at the end of the ‘23 season and posted a .748 OPS with two home runs in 13 games. The 25-year-old Kjerstad has dominated Triple-A this season with a .349/.431/.744 slash line, with an International League-leading 10 home runs in 21 games.

"For me, it's been about taking the walks when I can get them and driving the ball to all parts of the field," Kjerstad said about his torrid production in Triple-A. "I'm always motivated to show up to the park and perform to the best of my abilities. To get out to the start I had is everything you can hope for."

Kjerstad’s promotion comes at a time when many young Orioles hitters -- and previous top prospects like himself -- are dominating at the MLB level. Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson have already established themselves as stars, but that same high-level production has extended to other young Orioles.

Jordan Westburg just took home AL Player of the Week honors after posting a 1.413 OPS and driving in eight runs. Colton Cowser -- another young O’s outfielder -- took home the same honors the previous week when he homered four times and drove in 12 runs. It was the first time since 1981 that the Orioles have had back-to-back AL Player of the Week recipients (Eddie Murray in two straight weeks).

Even with 20-year-old Jackson Holliday (MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect) struggling in his brief MLB tenure thus far, the Orioles have a demonstrated track record of their top position-player prospects producing at the MLB level. Based on what Kjerstad has done in the Minors this year, he could be the latest young Oriole to crush MLB pitching.