The Arizona Fall League season is over, with the championship game having concluded and the offseason officially beginning for the players who played in Arizona. However, Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad is still collecting hardware, being awarded the Joe Black MVP award over the weekend.
By now, we all know the story about how Kjerstad was chosen with the second overall pick in 2020 but didn’t make his pro debut until 2022 due to Myocarditis. He made up for the lost time over the course of the minor league season and was then sent to the Scottsdale Scorpions to play in the Fall League.
After being assigned to Scottsdale, he started tearing it up, netting seven total bases on opening day alone, thanks to a homer, double, and single. I checked in on the Orioles in the AFL towards the end of October, and Kjerstad was still shining. Now, he gets the MVP award. Kjerstad had this to say:
"“It’s an amazing honor. There’s obviously a lot of great players out here that I’m playing against and are playing really good out here, but to be the one who’s awarded that is a really great honor.”"
After his seven total bases on opening day, Kjerstad matched that performance twice more and led the AFL in total bases at the end of the season with 61, 10 ahead of second place. His 35 hits, nine doubles, and 15 extra base hits were also tops in the Fall League and he hit .357 with a .385 on base percentage and .622 slugging percentage.
Baltimore Orioles prospect Heston Kjerstad takes home Arizona Fall League MVP honors
By winning the Fall League MVP, Kjerstad joins a group of previous winners that includes Kris Bryant in 2013, Ronald Acuña Jr in 2017, and Nolan Arenado in 2011. Last year’s winner was Nelson Velázquez of the Chicago Cubs organization.
One thing that Kjerstad did in fact struggle with in the Fall League was his plate discipline. In 104 plate appearances, Kjerstad drew just five walks to 31 strikeouts, in part due to swinging early in counts.
But if and when Kjerstad can improve on that plate discipline, he projects to be a middle of the order force in the Baltimore lineup for many years. Now, it’s just waiting until Spring Training for Kjerstad, and we will be paying attention to see if he starts in High A or Double A in 2023.