Heston Kjerstad’s performance since promotion has Orioles fans wondering why he ever left

Baltimore finally gave Kjerstad regular playing time and he is seizing the opportunity. What does that mean for the Orioles going forward?
May 1, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Baltimore Orioles outfielder Heston Kjerstad (13) stands at bat during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
May 1, 2024; Baltimore, Maryland, USA; Baltimore Orioles outfielder Heston Kjerstad (13) stands at bat during the third inning against the New York Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports / Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
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For everything that has gone right this year, the Baltimore Orioles' management of their roster has raised a lot of eyebrows. Through various injuries and setbacks by some lineup regulars, the Orioles have been willing to call-up some of their top prospects. However, giving them actual playing time has been a different matter altogether and a prime example of that was Heston Kjerstad.

Baltimore called Kjerstad up back in late April after he had torched Triple-A pitchers for 10 homers in 21 games. However, despite having multiple guys in the lineup who were struggling and/or hurt, Kjerstad only appeared in seven games from April 23 to May 11, including three games where he was given a single plate appearance before he got sent back down. What exactly was the point of calling Kjerstad up if you weren't going to play him and just send him back down?

Fast forward to the end of June and once again the Orioles called Kjerstad back up with similar uncertainty when it came to playing time. Cedric Mullins has been hitting better, Anthony Santander looked like Babe Ruth in June, and Austin Hays has looked much better as well. However, Baltimore clearly couldn't ignore Kjerstad's performance in the minor leagues any longer and were going to find a way to get his bat in the lineup.

After just a handful of games since getting the call, Kjerstad has been on fire and many are wondering why he was ever demoted in the first place.

Heston Kjerstad's dominance since his return may force the Orioles' hand

In Kjerstad's first six games after his second promotion to the big leagues in 2024, he slashed .438/.550/.938 with just three strikeouts. While that production is certainly not sustainable, it has shown that Kjerstad's bat is more than ready to take on big league pitching and is going to force the Orioles to make some tough choices when it comes to playing time in the second half.

So far, the Orioles have made things work by cycling guys in and out which, frankly, is what they should have done the first time Kjerstad got called up. In his short stint with the club, he has already seen time in each of the corner outfield spots as well as DH. However, with their outfield playing well again and Ryan O'Hearn being a lefty power bat that that needs to play either first base or DH, something is going to have to give.

Perhaps Baltimore's plan all along was to showcase Kjerstad for a trade and he is just increasing his value by the day. However, if he keeps mashing, Orioles fans may riot if the team moves Kjerstad or demotes him again. Moving Austin Hays (who has one more year of team control after 2024) and maybe Ryan Mountcastle would clear enough playing time to get everyone regular at-bats, but Baltimore has shown no inclination to quit either of those two guys.

For now, Orioles fans just need to enjoy what Kjerstad is doing while they can and hope that everything works itself out. It does look like Kjerstad is going to be sticking around for a while, but what the roster looks like a month from now is going to be the real question.

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