O's No. 15 prospect homers in first spring at-bat

Gibson gives another stellar outing; Kjerstad swats third home run

March 13th, 2023

SARASOTA, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, Hudson Haskin got an opportunity to showcase his skills on a Grapefruit League stage Monday afternoon. The 24-year-old outfielder didn’t let it go to waste.

Haskin, the Orioles’ No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline, belted a solo homer in the fifth inning of Baltimore’s 11-7 split-squad win over the Tigers at Ed Smith Stadium. It was his first Grapefruit at-bat of the year and only the second of his pro career.

“Any time you can get out here [in a] big league atmosphere, it’s something you try not to take for granted,” Haskin said. “Glad I was able to go out there and do something positive, help the team.”

There was a case to be made for Haskin to be among Baltimore’s non-roster invitees in camp, but he wasn’t included. A second-round pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, the toolsy center fielder had a solid showing at Double-A Bowie last year, batting .264/.367/.455 with 15 homers, 23 doubles and 56 RBIs in 109 games.

However, the Orioles have a plethora of talented outfielders in their organization, so Haskins’ spring has been spent at the club’s Minor League camp. With Baltimore playing two games on Monday, it filled its bench and bullpen for each contest with Minors players, such as Haskins.

Despite the potential logjam of players ahead of him, Haskin -- who spent the offseason trying to add muscle in the weight room and adjusting his swing -- isn’t focused on the competition for opportunities that he’ll face in the future.

“I try not to look at it like that,” Haskin said. “There are a lot of really good players in this organization. Just trying to stick with my process and trying to become the best player I can become.”

Gibson strong again as big announcement looms
The Orioles will soon announce their Opening Day starting pitcher. When exactly? Manager Brandon Hyde hasn’t divulged that, only sharing that the news won't come before Wednesday’s off-day.

Kyle Gibson remains the favorite for the assignment after tossing four innings with one run allowed vs. the Tigers. The lone run came on a one-out homer by Akil Baddoo in the first. Gibson struck out two and retired nine of the final 10 batters he faced.

Over three spring starts, Gibson has allowed only two runs in nine innings.

“I think [I’m] right on where I think I’d like to be,” said Gibson, who signed a one-year, $10 million deal with Baltimore this offseason. “Stuff feels crisp. The adjustments I’m making, I’m able to take them to the mound. I’m able to work on stuff that I want to work on, plus get outs.”

Kjerstad can’t stop hitting
Once again, Heston Kjerstad put on a show with his bat on Monday. The 24-year-old outfielder homered as part of a 2-for-3 performance in the Orioles’ 6-5 split-squad loss to the Braves at CoolToday Park in North Port, Fla., a game that was shortened to seven innings due to rain.

Kjerstad, Baltimore’s No. 6 prospect and the No. 80 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, is 11-for-23 over 15 games. His solo shot vs. Atlanta was his third homer of the spring and his first since going deep twice in the O’s Grapefruit opener vs. the Twins on Feb. 25.

“What’s been remarkable is how hard he hits the baseball. It’s really impressive,” Hyde said recently. “This guy’s going to grow into a really good hitter, a potential huge power guy. He’s looking to do damage at the plate, and he puts swings to the baseball like he’s trying to do damage.”

Worth noting
• The Orioles hit six home runs in their win over the Tigers. Adam Frazier went deep for the first time in a Baltimore uniform, Austin Hays belted his third spring homer (tied with Kjerstad for the team lead) and Franchy Cordero homered for the second time. Haskin, Colton Cowser and Jacob Teter also went deep.

Nick Vespi made his first Grapefruit appearance of the spring, allowing one run in one inning vs. Detroit. The 27-year-old left-hander, who underwent offseason hernia surgery, struck out two. His lone run allowed came on a first-pitch homer by Ryan Kreidler in the top of the sixth.

Josh Lester, who is competing for a bench spot, went deep for the first time this spring, belting a three-run homer in the top of the sixth vs. the Braves. The 28-year-old infielder owns a five-game hitting streak, going 8-for-15 over that span.