The Orioles threw us a curveball with their first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, going with Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad. The guys on the ESPN broadcast were calling him the second-best power bat in the draft, after Spencer Torkelson, who went first overall to Detroit.
His coach at Arkansas called him “the best left-handed hitter in the country.” He was number 10 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100. Here’s what they wrote about him, pre-draft:
“A 36th-round pick by the Mariners as a Texas high schooler in 2017, Kjerstad teamed with fellow top prospect Casey Martin to lead Arkansas to back-to-back College World Series appearances in their first two years of college. His 14 homers in 2018 broke the school freshman record of 13 set by eventual first-rounder Zack Cox in 2009, and Kjerstad encored with 17 as a sophomore. He offers the best left-handed power in the 2020 college class and only potential No. 1 overall pick Spencer Torkelson has more pop among collegians.
Kjerstad’s strength and bat speed give him well above-average raw power to all fields. He has a complicated swing that features a big hand circle in his load, so he has to be precise with his timing to make it work — but he has done so in college and was the top performer in the U.S. collegiate team’s lineup last summer. He’s an aggressive hitter who always will accumulate strikeouts as a tradeoff for his pop.
Though Kjerstad records below-average running times out of the batter’s box, he displays average speed once he gets going. He’s not a threat on the bases but plays a capable right field. His huge power and solid arm strength fit the profile for the position.”
With this pick, expect the Orioles to aim for an over-slot high school prospect at picks 30 and/or 39. For more on that, read this piece from ESR’s Aidan Griesser.