It was another good week for the Orioles, who went 5-1 during their West Coast stints in Phoenix and Anaheim. The best team in the American League continues to march toward a playoff berth and perhaps an AL East title.
But it was also an eventful week on the farm, where some of Baltimore’s top Minor League prospects continue to impress. Even as future stars reached the big leagues this season, the system remained stocked with top talent.
Let’s break down three of the hottest topics of the past week.
On Tuesday, Holliday made his Norfolk debut, starting at shortstop and finishing 1 for 4 with a double, a walk and a run scored from first in the Tides’ 9-4 loss to Jacksonville. Holliday is 3-for-18 with an RBI in his first four Triple-A games.
Although Holliday’s rise has been rapid – especially for a teenager who is just over a year removed from his time at Stillwater (Okla.) High School – he has clearly earned each promotion thanks to his game along the way. Here are his 2023 numbers at each previous level:
Single-A Delmarva (14 matches): .396/.522/.660 with six doubles, one triple, two homers and 16 RBIs
High-A Aberdeen (57 matches): .314/.452/.488 with 11 doubles, five triples, five home runs and 35 RBIs
Double-A Bowie (36 games): .338/.421/.507 with nine doubles, three triples, three home runs and 15 RBIs
Orioles manager Brandon Hyde repeatedly praised Holliday for holding his own during his time in big league spring training earlier this year, and the skipper recently said he had never seen such a young player experiencing this type of first full professional season during his coaching career.
“He obviously has great bloodlines and has been around a lot of big league players, and I think that’s incredibly helpful,” Hyde said of the son of former All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday. “And he’s also extremely talented. I’m happy with the year he’s having.
It seems unlikely that Holliday will make it to the big leagues in the next three weeks (never say never), but his season has gone exceptionally well regardless.
2. Heston Kjerstad remained at Triple-A Norfolk
When MLB’s active rosters expanded from 26 to 28 players on September 1, it seemed possible that Kjerstad could get his first call-up to The Show. Instead, the 24-year-old outfielder remained at Triple-A, where he has been since being promoted on June 5.
Before this season, Kjerstad only had 65 games of minor league experience. The No. 2 pick in the 2020 MLB Draft did not make his professional debut until June 10, 2022, due to myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), followed by a left hamstring strain suffered early from ’22.
“Heston is having a wonderful season, especially given the context of everything that got him to this point,” general manager Mike Elias said in late August. “He looks great.” He hasn’t necessarily experienced or seen everything he could or will see in Triple-A, so it’s still not a waste from a development standpoint for him to have these at-bats.
After getting his first taste of Double-A ball earlier this year – when he hit .310/.384/.576 with 10 doubles, three triples, 11 homers and 23 RBIs in 46 games for Bowie – Kjerstad continued his career. good season at Triple-A. He has a .302/.374/.512 average with 19 doubles, five triples, 10 homers and 32 RBIs in 72 games for Norfolk.
If an injury occurs forcing the Orioles to call up an outfielder, Kjerstad could possibly still make his MLB debut in September. Otherwise, he puts himself in a prime position to make the big league team in spring training in 2024.
3. Several members of the 2023 Draft class reached High-A Aberdeen
Earlier this week, the Orioles promoted three members of their 2023 draft class to High-A Aberdeen: outfielder Enrique Bradfield Jr. (first round pick), infielder/flyer Mac Horvath (second round) and outfielder Matthew Etzel (10th round).
All three performed quite well in brief stints at Single-A Delmarva. Bradfield (the O’s Hope #8) slashed .302/.494/.340 and went 20-for-22 on stolen bases in 17 games for the Shorebirds. Horvath (the team Hope #12) slashed .308/.422/.500 with two home runs in 14 games. Etzel slashed .314/.444/.486 with two homers in 21 games.
Here’s how the trio have fared so far in their first spell at Aberdeen:
Bradfield: .111/.385/.111 with four walks in three games
Horvath: .273/.467/.818 with two homers and three RBIs in three games
Etzel: .400/.455/.600 with two doubles and one RBI in three games