MiLB Player of the Week Spotlight: Orioles' Heston Kjerstad

April 12th, 2024

Few people are having more fun right now playing the game of baseball than , who has found a way to stand out among a team of standouts on the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate Norfolk Tides. So what's the key to his success? Just being himself.

Kjerstad was named Minor League Player of the Week in the International League after hitting safely in all six games between March 31 and April 6, going 13-for-28 with six home runs -- including a five-hit, multihomer, 10-RBI game -- for Triple-A Norfolk. MLB's No. 30 overall prospect led the International League in slugging, OPS, hits, RBIs (21) and extra-base hits (nine) over that stretch and became the first Orioles prospect to post four straight games with at least three RBIs.

“Just staying locked in to my approach and selling out to it every at-bat, and just being myself every time I step into the box," Kjerstad told MLB Tonight's Adnan Virk, Sean Casey and Ryan Dempster. "For me right now, I’m just trying to hunt the ball a little bit up in the zone cause that’s -- most guys are using a lot of off-speed down in the zone to get me out or get me to chase. And for me, my focal point has been swinging at those pitches when I get them in zone and put them in play hard. Really managing the strike zone."

Kjerstad plays on a roster that MLB Pipeline recently ranked as one of the most stacked Minor League clubs in the game. There is no question about the abundance of talent on the team that currently sports a +19 run differential through its first 12 games of the year. Even with the promotion of baseball's top overall prospect Jackson Holliday, the Tides have proven that there is still plenty of thump in their lineup, and that environment has provided the fourth-ranked Orioles prospect with the opportunity to thrive.

"The Orioles have done a great job just stacking up young talent and helping develop it as well. You know, it’s deep down here in the farm system," the 25-year-old said. "Just a lot of good players, it’s nice to be around those guys. We’re able to pick each other’s brain and talk baseball and also just go out there and compete. You know, you get a lot of us in one lineup and it could be some damage, for sure.

"We definitely push each other. Everybody definitely want to be the best player on the team, but I feel like we do a really good job of, once we get between the lines we’re on one team together and we’re working together to beat the team we’re playing against. Or trying to help each other reach a new level. Everyone wants the edge but, you know, we’re all really good so it kinda just flips week to week on who is running the offense."

This week belonged to Kjerstad, who made his debut in The Show with Baltimore late last season and went 7-for-30 with a pair of dingers, a double, three RBIs and a pair of walks in 13 games for the Orioles. He credits that experience with the big league club as a catalyst for his early-season success thus far.

"Got up there at the end of last year and, you know, it’s the same game of baseball," Kjerstad said. "Definitely the lights are a little brighter and the stadium is a little bigger but it’s still the same game. You gotta be yourself, you gotta have an approach, and the most important thing I learned is you gotta show up and compete every pitch. Every pitch matters.

"You gotta stay locked in the whole game and just be yourself and have fun."