What to Expect from Orioles Outfielder Heston Kjerstad

Heston Kjerstad of the Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles have made it official, as former first-round pick Heston Kjerstad will join Baltimore’s MLB roster ahead of the team’s crucial four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays. With the former University of Arkansas star going to Baltimore, here’s a look at what he’s been up to in the Minors and what O’s fans can expect from Kjerstad.

Related: 2023 Fantasy Baseball: Who to Target with Max Scherzer Done for the Season

A Look at Kjerstad

After a three-year wait, the Baltimore Orioles are set to see what 1B/OF Heston Kjerstad can do at the MLB level.

It’s been a lengthy road to the Majors for Kjerstad, who was taken out of the University of Arkansas with the second overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Kjerstad torched SEC and college pitching in his three years with the Razorbacks, as he posted a career slash line of .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs and 72 extra base hits over 150 games.

The 24-year-old got a late start to his pro career, however, thanks to the 2020 COVID shutdown, a bout of myocarditis that cost him all of 2021, and a strained hamstring in 2022. He did make his pro debut in the Minors last year, and hit .309/.394/.457 with five home runs and 24 extra base hits over 65 contests.

Kjerstad made up for the lost time with a brilliant run in the Arizona Fall League last year and continued that momentum in 2023. Across two levels (AA and AAA), Kjerstad hit .303/.376/.528 with 21 home runs 58 extra base hits over 122 games.

The 24-year-old flashed plus power while at Arkansas, and he’s still very much a strong power hitter to this day. Kjerstad can mash at the plate and routinely drilled line drives, thanks to his strength and quick bat. But what makes Kjerstad an even more intriguing talent is his ability to work counts and draw walks.

That ability could turn Kjerstad into a fixture atop of the O’s lineup for years to come.

Defensively, Kjerstad played primarly in right field. That’s not much of a shock, given that his arm’s received high grades. However, he’s seen a lot of time at first base this season, in what can be considered as an alternative path for him to get time in the Majors in the near future.

After all, the O’s have plenty of outfield depth with Austin Hays, Cedric Mullins, Anthony Santander, as well as Colton Cowser in the Minors.

What it Means for the Orioles and Fantasy Outlook

The promotion of Kjerstad comes at a pivotal time for the O’s. While he’s not set to be in the lineup on September 14, the Orioles are down a key bat in Ryan Mountcastle. Mountcastle hurt his shoulder in the Orioles’ series against the Cardinals.

Now, Mountcastle is day-to-day, but the promotion of Kjerstad gives Brandon Hyde another option in his lineup in what is a very tight race for the AL East title. Entering play on September 14, the Orioles have a two-game lead against the team Baltimore’s set to play for four from September 14-17, the Rays.

Long-term, Kjerstad is one of those names that MLB fans will need get familiar with. He’s got the bat and eye to be a top-of-the-order fixture in the Orioles lineup, and has All-Star potential. But for right now, he’ll look to fight for at-bats in a crowded O’s lineup that includes the names previously mentioned, as well as 1B/OF Ryan O’Hearn.

As far as fantasy is concerned, it’s a smart to idea to watch Kjerstad over these final weeks so long as he gets playing time. However, it’s unclear how long Mountcastle will be out, and how often the O’s will start the young infielder/outfielder.