Orioles need to consider selling high on Heston Kjerstad amid Triple-A hot streak

Heston Kjerstad is still raking down in the minor leagues and that means Baltimore needs to finally make a tough decision on him.
Arizona Diamondbacks v Baltimore Orioles
Arizona Diamondbacks v Baltimore Orioles / G Fiume/GettyImages

Coming into the 2024 season, everyone knew in their heart of hearts that the Baltimore Orioles weren't ever going to have enough spots for all of the top young players they have. Generally, these sorts of things work themselves out. Guys hit a wall and struggle, either at a level of the minors or in the majors, and the choices get made for a team (as is the case, for now, with Jackson Holliday). However, the Orioles find themselves in a bit of a conundrum with Heston Kjerstad.

No one denies that Kjerstad is one of the best offensive prospects in baseball right now. He clearly is too good to have to sit and rot down at Triple-A, an assertion that was on full display on Wednesday when Kjerstad hit a walk-off grand slam to bring his minor league homer total in 2024 up to 13. However, the Orioles' outfield is very crowded right now, and they just didn't play Kjerstad much at all when they called him up earlier this year.

At this point, it is fair to wonder what the Orioles' plan for Kjerstad is, if they have one at all. The team clearly values Austin Hays, Anthony Santader, and Cedric Mullins, despite their struggles this season. Baltimore prioritized the veteran trio when they had a prime opportunity to give Kjerstad real playing time in the big leagues. Right now, the team's best option may just be to trade him at the deadline, as painful as it would be to lose him.

The Orioles need to trade Heston Kjerstad while his value is at it's peak

The idea of the Orioles trading Kjerstad is hardly new. Baltimore has had a basic math problem with their roster for a while now, and Kjerstad is at a position where Baltimore is deepest. Given that the Orioles would probably love to add an impact rotation and/or quality bullpen depth at the trade deadline this year, Kjerstad is the type of trade piece that could yield a big-time return.

There is always the danger that Kjerstad goes on to be an offensive juggernaut with another team and Orioles fans rue the day that the organization moved on from him. However, the longer Baltimore just lets Kjerstad languish in the minor leagues, the more likely that something happens (a slump, an injury, etc.) that hurts his value. Other teams notice when a guy gets trapped in the minor leagues, and start nitpicking their games the longer it occurs.

Right now, Kjerstad may never be more valuable to the Orioles. He is crushing it down at Triple-A and still has unrealized upside in the big leagues. If the Orioles are not going to take advantage of it themselves by putting him on their roster (and it is very possible that they should), they need to go get a big time player to fill another need and use Kjerstad to make it happen.

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