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Orioles begin fall instructional league in Sarasota without Heston Kjerstad due to ‘non-sports medical reason’

Nearly 60 Orioles prospects, many of whom weren’t included in the 60-man player pool to work out at Bowie this summer, will participate in the organization’s three-week fall instructional camp beginning Monday in Sarasota, Florida.

“This takes on special meaning this year with the lack of a minor league season due to the coronavirus pandemic and it’s going to be a very important player development, player evaluation, player planning event for our organization,” executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Monday.

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The camp will feature five of the team’s 2020 draft picks, but not No. 2 overall pick Heston Kjerstad.

Elias said Kjerstad is missing the camp because of an “undisclosed medical, non-sports related reason," but did not specify what that was. Kjerstad was doing on-boarding work with the rest of the draft class, Elias said, and “each player did what was appropriate for him and what was available" to get engaged in the organization’s practices.

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“It’s not great, but I think the fact that he’s an advanced, high-level college hitter makes it a little less concerning that he ended up not getting much organized activity this year," Elias said. "It looks like that will be the case. That makes it, I think, a little more tolerable because he’s a pretty polished hitter. He’ll be able to pick up next spring where he left off, but for all these guys, this has been a concerning year and certainly this would not have been our plan. But this has been a hard year to predict the future.”

In addition to those 2020 draft picks, other well-regarded players who weren’t able to work at Bowie but who will be at the camp include infielders Adam Hall and Darell Hernaiz, plus left-hander Drew Rom and right-hander Blaine Knight.

Top prospect Adley Rutschman is also part of the 55-player camp.

“This is a list that skews younger,” Elias said.

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Some players, including top pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez and DL Hall, were at the Bowie camp and got a full slate of work there but will make the trip to Sarasota for some brief mechanical work.

The league will also include several players from the Orioles' recent international signing classes, including pitchers Luis Ortiz and Héctor López; outfielders Stiven Acevedo, Isaac Bellony, and Luis González; and infielders James Rolle, Dax Stubbs and Leonel Sánchez.

“We wanted to get some of our young Latin hitters here,” Elias said. “You’ll see a lot of names from the 2018 signing period a lot of players that were signed by Koby Perez that year that have not gotten much professional action yet.”

Elias noted that Venezuelan prospects couldn’t travel to the United States for any team, and that the Latin American prospects acquired in August were traded for too late to bring to the camp with the requisite work visas.

The Orioles were able to include several trade acquisitions from the past year, including some who will get their most extensive work in the organization at this camp. Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek, both of whom were acquired as part of the four-player package in the Dylan Bundy trade with the Los Angeles Angels, didn’t pitch after they were drafted in 2019 and only had limited spring training looks in 2020.

Left-hander Easton Lucas, acquired from the Miami Marlins for Jonathan Villar, will also get his most extensive work in the organization. Infielder Terrin Vavra, one of three players acquired from the Colorado Rockies for Mychal Givens, will also be at the camp.

Elias said that the camp will run through the end of October and be similar in practice and curriculum to the Orioles' secondary camp at Bowie, but will have more fields to work with at the Ed Smith Stadium complex and “have more of a normal instructional league type of structure and feel” under minor league manager Kevin Bradshaw.

It’s unclear whether they will be able to play other teams in Florida to face outside competition, Elias said.

“It’s certainly possible, but there’s aspects of this that we’re still waiting on answers with and that’s one of them," Elias said. "I think all the teams in Florida are all hopeful for some inter-squad action.”

PITCHERS (24)

RHP Carter Baumler, RHP Randy Beriguete, RHP Kyle Brnovich, RHP Noah Denoyer, RHP Connor Gillispie, RHP Thomas Girard, LHP DL Hall, RHP Dan Hammer, RHP Blaine Knight, RHP Héctor López, LHP Zac Lowther,LHP Easton Lucas, RHP Morgan McSweeney, LHP Zach Muckenhirn, LHP Luis Ortiz, RHP Zach Peek, RHP Ofelky Peralta, RHP Shelton Perkins, RHP Grayson Rodriguez, LHP Drew Rom, RHP Houston Roth, RHP Luis Sánchez, RHP Kade Strowd, RHP Brandon Young

CATCHERS (6)

Jordan Cannon, Brett Cumberland, Maverick Handley, Ricardo Rivera, Cody Roberts, Adley Rutschman

INFIELDERS (17)

Rylan Bannon, José Cosma, Andrew Daschbach, Adam Hall, Gunnar Henderson, Darell Hernaiz, Roberto Martínez, Coby Mayo, Joey Ortiz, Erinson Placencia, James Rolle, Leonel Sánchez, Anthony Servideo, Dax Stubbs, Terrin Vavra, Toby Welk, Jordan Westburg

OUTFIELDERS (8)

Stiven Acevedo, Isaac Bellony, Luis González, Dylan Harris, Hudson Haskin, Johnny Rizer, Kyle Stowers, Zach Watson

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