Orioles pick slugging outfielder out of Arkansas with No. 2 overall pick

Heston Kjerstad

When discussing the idea of taking a player who might be perceived as lower on the draft rankings at No. 2 overall in search of financial savings to pass along to other picks, Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said that strategy is best served when they like the player more than anyone else available.

In selecting Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad second overall in a surprising selection in the MLB draft, Elias and the Orioles ended a process where they played their cards close to the vest by unveiling that their favorite player was different from the rest of the industry.

Kjerstad, a power-hitting left-handed bat who played center field for the Razorbacks, comes to the Orioles with a prolific track record. He hit 14 and 16 home runs as an everyday player his freshman and sophomore years, batting .332 with a .972 OPS in 2018 and .329 with a .978 OPS in 2019.

He was on pace to have an even more impressive junior year before the coronavirus pandemic shut down college baseball in March, batting .448 with a 1.304 OPS and six home runs while improving his strikeout-to-walk rate significantly.

While well-regarded, Kjerstad was farther down rankings than a second overall pick traditionally would be. The consensus top players remaining were Vanderbilt third baseman/outfielder Austin Martin and Texas A&M left-hander Asa Lacy. Kjerstad was ranked 13th in Baseball America’s draft rankings.

Drafting him second, however, will presumably give the Orioles a chance to pay him less than the recommended slot bonus of $7,789,900 for the second overall pick and pass the savings along to the rest of their picks, specifically at Nos. 30 and 39.

Spencer Torkelson

The Detroit Tigers selected Arizona State slugger Spencer Torkelson with the No. 1 pick Wednesday.  The baseball-bashing Torkelson played first base in college, but was announced as a third baseman by Commissioner Rob Manfred.

Right-handed pitcher Max Meyer was picked third by the Miami Marlins. Meyer has been a two-way star for Minnesota, playing the outfield while also developing into the team’s pitching ace.