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What they’re saying about the Orioles’ selection of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad

What analysts around the baseball world are saying about the Orioles’ selection of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 MLB draft:

Jim Callis, MLB.com: Kjerstad is the best left-handed power hitter in this Draft, but it is a surprise to see him go here, as we had him ranked as the No. 10 prospect in the Draft. I thought that the Orioles would go with Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin, but Kjerstad’s swing is built for Camden Yards, and he should get there very quickly.

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Dan Mullen, ESPN: Kjerstad might have the best raw power of any left-handed hitter in the draft, has performed well at Arkansas and led Team USA with a .395 average last summer. He’s strictly a corner outfielder, and his swing has a lot of moving parts, including a pause with a big leg kick. The strikeouts are a concern -- he had a poor 65/21 strikeout-to-walk ratio as a sophomore -- but he was off to a great start in nonconference play in 2020, hitting .448/.513/.791 with six home runs in 16 games. Why the Orioles took him here: Kjerstad has elite power and was a top-10 prospect in this draft, but this is also very much about draft strategy. Kjerstad is much more likely to take an under-slot deal that will help the O’s target another elite player with the No. 30 pick than higher-ranked prospects Austin Martin or Asa Lacy would. Best case for Baltimore is getting an outfielder in Kjerstad who might fit as a designated hitter and who annually lands on MLB home run leaderboards while strengthening the rest of its system later in the draft.

Mike Axisa, CBS Sports: Heston won’t be the first Kjerstad to play pro ball: his brother Dexter spent a number of seasons as part of the Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins organizations. He does have a chance to become the first one in his family to reach the majors, however. Kjerstad is a big left-hander with ample strength and a bad-ball appetite that keeps his walk rate lean. He has a track record of hitting against good pitching (.343/.421/.590 in three years of playing SEC competition), and this season he sliced into his strikeout rate, reducing it from 19.6 percent to 11.5 percent. Teams will have to decide if they trust his odd, albeit adaptable swing enough to project him as a Corey Dickerson type. If so, Kjerstad could be the first collegiate outfielder off the board.

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Keith Law, The Athletic: Kjerstad is a big power bat with some tools, but he’s also a right fielder and has had issues with swinging and missing — enough that I think this pick was a reach with Austin Martin still on the board (among others). If that pick was to save money, rather than a straight preference for Kjerstad, the Orioles didn’t take advantage of it at No. 30, the first selection of the competitive balance A round, at which they took Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg, a very good athlete who also strikes out too much and has to work on pitch recognition as well as reducing his leak at the plate.

Matt Martell, Sports Illustrated: Kjerstad is the best left-handed power hitter in the draft class. He hit 37 homers in 150 games at Arkansas, and he projects to be a 25-30 home run hitter in the majors. The Orioles have restocked their farm system quickly, with a lot of strong pitchers who are close to MLB ready. They took switch-hitting catcher Adley Rutschman first overall last year, but they’re going to need more bats than him to climb back into contention over the next 3-5 years. Getting an elite power bat makes sense for the Orioles.

Jim Palmer, Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher and MASN analyst: A surprise but apparently, great power. Analysts compare him to Todd Helton , had a fabulous career.

Richard Justice, MLB.com correspondent and former Orioles beat writer for The Sun: In 145 games, Kjerstad put up video game-like numbers. He hit .332 as a freshman, .331 as a sophomore and was hitting .448 when this season ended after 16 games. He entered the Draft ranked No. 10 on MLB Pipeline’s list of the Top 200 Draft prospects — but Baltimore jumped on Kjerstad right after Spencer Torkelson went first overall to the Tigers.

Dave Sheinin, The Washington Post: The Baltimore Orioles, who owned the second overall pick — which, in a surprise, they used to take University of Arkansas center fielder Heston Kjerstad — have the biggest bonus pool, at $13,894,300. The selection of Kjerstad was likely a strategic, under-slot pick that would allow the Orioles to bank pool money to spend on later picks.

Kendall Rogers, Co-Managing Editor @D1Baseball: Heston Kjerstad has incredible raw power and can do it to all fields. He has improved his defense as well. There’s some swing and miss there for sure, but he absolutely hammers the ball.

Phil Elson, Arkansas radio broadcaster: This guy gave us so many great moments. Can’t wait to see what he does in the Big Leagues.

Andrew Scaglione, affiliate content manager & virtual sports anchor: O’s fans ... you’re getting a good one. Heston Kjerstad hit the ball as hard as ANYONE I’ve ever seen live. Absolute blast to cover for two seasons.

BSLOnTheVerge, a weekly podcast about the Baltimore Orioles minor league system: Wow! Welcome to the Baltimore #Orioles, Heston Kjerstad! The Arkansas outfielder slashed .343/.421/.590 with 37 home runs and 34 doubles in two-plus seasons. The lefty has big power at the plate. Let’s hope he becomes familiar with Eutaw Street.

Joe Trezza, MLB.com: Mike Elias met in person w/ several No.2 candidates this winter & connected with others later over Zoom, including Heston Kjerstad. The Orioles love his makeup, and that shone through during their virtual meeting.

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