Orioles call up Heston Kjerstad after unfortunate injury to struggling outfielder

While it is never great for a player to get hurt, it definitely helps take the sting out of it when there is a top prospect hanging out in Triple-A to replace him.
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

Nearly all of the existing Baltimore Orioles roster has been the product of relentless player development with a healthy dash of high draft picks. There hasn't been a team that has been hit better on position players in the draft than the Orioles recently with Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Jackson Holliday (yes, that pick is still sweet even with his current struggles), and others all being prime examples.

They have been so successful, in fact, that they have had to stockpile top end offensive talent at Triple-A and just wait for an opportunity to play them. Holliday obviously got his chance not too long ago, but Heston Kjerstad still had to wait his turn for a 2024 return to MLB, despite the fact that he had posted a 1.176 OPS down at Triple-A. Needless to say, the International League's pitchers probably advocated for a promotion.

Fast forward to Monday, when it was revealed earlier in the afternoon that the struggling Austin Hays was hitting the injured list with an strained calf after leaving Saturday's game early with the injury. This led to lots of speculation over who the Orioles would call up, but they went with the logical choice and plan on recalling Kjerstad on Tuesday according to the Baltimore Sun.

Orioles News: Baltimore to call up Heston Kjerstad to replace injured Austin Hays

For Baltimore, this decision calculus was actually pretty straightforward, With Hays out, they need an outfielder. Kjerstad plays the position, is already on the 40-man roster, and has been tearing the cover off the ball down in the minor leagues. The Orioles' No. 2 overall pick's first look at the big leagues in 2023 was fairly mediocre with a .233/.281/.467 line in 32 plate appearances, and he wasn't overwhelmingly impressive this spring, but he clearly figured out something once the minor-league season got started and has little to prove down there anymore.

This development could be a blessing in disguise for Hays, who has not been able to do much of anything at the plate in 2024. His offensive ceiling has been limited for some time now, and hopefully his time on the injured list will allow him to reset and get back on track. If Kjerstad performs well in his absence, it wouldn't be all that surprising to see the Orioles just keep Hays in the minors (as he has one minor-league option left) and hope he figures things out or even trade him at the deadline.

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