Orioles' draft surprises: Heston Kjerstad, and a lack of pitching - BaltimoreBaseball.com

2020 MLB Draft

Orioles’ draft surprises: Heston Kjerstad, and a lack of pitching

Heston Kjerstad
Photo credit: Steven Branscombe - USA Today

There were two surprises in the Orioles’ 2020 draft. The first was that they selected Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad with the second overall choice. The second was that they waited until their final pick in the fifth round on Thursday until they chose a pitcher, Iowa high school right-hander Carter Baumler.

Last year, the Orioles waited until the eighth round of the Major League Baseball draft before they took a pitcher. That draft was considered light on pitchers. This one was thought to be replete with college pitchers with credentials.

“We had pitchers all up and down our board that we thought we had in good spots,” Orioles supervisor of domestic scouting Brad Ciolek said in a video conference call on Thursday night.

“For whatever reason, we either liked a position player at that point in time better or the pitchers went right before our next selection. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes the way the draft works, and that’s ultimately what ended up happening here.”

Besides Kjerstad, the Orioles chose Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg with the 30th overall pick on Wednesday. Thursday’s picks were Tulane outfielder Hudson Haskin (2nd), Mississippi shortstop Anthony Servideo (3rd), Florida high school third baseman Cody Mayo (4th) and Baumler.

Kjerstad was scouted by the Orioles with Team USA last summer, and the team was impressed.

“You could see he was one of the more consistent performers or hitters,” Ciolek said.

Watching him this spring, the Orioles were “intrigued by the bat potential and high contact in the strike zone.”

Ciolek said that Kjerstad didn’t swing and miss often with pitches in the strike zone.


“It was a blend of old school scouting and also advanced analytics that ultimately made him an extremely attractive fit in our eyes,” Ciolek said.

The Orioles liked that in his abbreviated junior year, his strikeouts were down and his on-base percentage was up. Kjerstad said that he’d worked on being more selective, and attacking pitches that he’s looking for.

“We were convinced that if the season had continued to progress that Heston would have been a candidate not only for the Golden Spikes Award [given to top collegiate player], but also a top five selection in the draft.”

Ciolek said that Orioles manager Brandon Hyde addressed the team’s scouts last November.

Hyde told them besides looking for hard workers who are dedicated, he wanted the scouts to keep something else in mind: “Nice don’t play.”

Ciolek said that “Heston certainly has the edge to him. He’s a fierce competitor. That’s the type of mindset and competitor that we need if we’re going to compete in the AL East.”

When Kjerstad was selected instead of Vanderbilt third baseman/outfielder Austin Martin, the speculation was that the Orioles would be able to sign him below the $7,789,900 slotted for the second pick of the draft. The team would be able to use the savings to sign other draftees for more money than their suggested slot.

Mayo and Baumler are committed to Florida and Texas Christian University and could use that as leverage if they don’t receive acceptable offers by the Orioles.

“We feel really confident in our ability to make an offer that they will deem acceptable,” Ciolek said. “And, we’re going to do everything we can to make sure we can pull that off.”

Ciolek didn’t have a dream draft in mind.

“It was essentially just ranking them and ultimately taking the best guy who was on the top of our board with each pick,” he said.

The Orioles have until August 1 to sign their draft picks. Beginning Sunday at 9 a.m., they can sign undrafted free agents for a maximum of $20,000.

“We’ll make every attempt to recruit those guys and try to sell them [on] the benefits of joining the Orioles’ organization,” Ciolek said.

Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB




  1. In The Triangle

    June 12, 2020 at 7:35 am

    Is that a $20,000 contract or a $20,000 bonus?

  2. Baltimore Castaway

    June 12, 2020 at 8:33 am

    It seemed like an unorthodox Draft for Elias and the Orioles for sure. Was continually surprised that they never took a Pitcher until the very end of the evening. He must be truly committed to his Board..

    Have to also think that they have some Pitching lined-up in the International Market later this Summer.

    I will give Mike the benefit-of-the-doubt. He knows what he is doing, he has a plan. We have to let him work it…

    • Boog Robinson Robinson

      June 12, 2020 at 11:03 am

      WE … have no choice but to let him work it.

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        June 12, 2020 at 5:40 pm

        Or else you’ll do what? Quit being a part time Oriole fan? Quit b1tch1ing on this site?

        • VICTORTEE

          June 13, 2020 at 9:15 am

          Stop being an Elias (AKA “The Boy Wonder”) Tushie kisser.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          June 14, 2020 at 11:01 am

          Well that simply makes no sense. My comment was a comment on a prior comment, not an indictment of Elias. Why do you always have to troll me Mr. GED? Read and THINK clown.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            June 14, 2020 at 11:56 am

            There were only 3 comments made before you chimed in. And I read all 3. Your comment was in regards to Baltimore Castaway. In his last paragraph he stated that “I will give Mike (as in Mike Elias) the benefit-of-the-doubt. He knows what he is doing, he has a plan. We have to let him work it”. And then your stupid comment “WE … have no choice but to let him work it”. So my comment was what would you do – Or else you’ll do what? Quit being a part time Oriole fan? Quit b1tch1ing on this site? Seems pretty right on to me.

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 6:53 pm

      Maybe his girlfriend left him because of all the plastic surgery & he’s all pissy, did you expect anything else?…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        June 13, 2020 at 7:51 pm

        Victoria and CP you both can stop kissing each others azzez. And no plastic surgery here, I’m the real deal, punk.

        • VICTORTEE

          June 15, 2020 at 8:52 am

          You are correct. You are a punk.

          And keep drinking that orange koolaid.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            June 15, 2020 at 12:33 pm

            And you can keep being the b1tch/punk you are. Come try me.

    • CalsPals

      June 13, 2020 at 8:05 pm

      Apparently you do care what we think, contrary to your words, it’s funny, I counted 2-3 others of the same opinions, but you don’t comment on them, I’m flattered…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        June 13, 2020 at 8:36 pm

        I make my comments here like anyone else. But mine are positive when it comes to the Orioles. I would like to see them turn this franchise around, soon. But you and brr are both constantly posting I am Elias or working for the Orioles in some capacity and slamming Elias and his moves. It’s like you want him to fail so you both can b1tch. Others on this site haven’t said anything to me except you two. That’s why I slam you both right back. You both started this war of words and I’ll finish it. When you quit, I’ll quit. And I don’t care what you think until you brought personalities into this.

        • WorldlyView

          June 13, 2020 at 9:29 pm

          Let’s all take a deeeep breath.

        • VICTORTEE

          June 15, 2020 at 8:54 am

          I am curious. Did you agree with every move Dan Duquette and all the prior O’s GM’s made?

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            June 15, 2020 at 12:40 pm

            I am also curious, did you b1tch and moan about everything any gm for the Orioles did? Another Monday morning quarterback with no answers of your own, just b1tching and complaining. So make a pick you would have done differently so we can criticize you.

    • CalsPals

      June 14, 2020 at 8:27 am

      You’re soooo easy…good lord…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      June 15, 2020 at 12:49 pm

      Mike Jr, I’m surprised they let you stay on here the way you keep threatening people…lol…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      June 15, 2020 at 12:55 pm

      Vic, did you notice he didn’t answer your question, ramblings of a lunatic…lol…go O’s….

      • WorldlyView

        June 15, 2020 at 2:57 pm

        I will repeat myself:

        June 14, 2020

        “I come to this website to temporarily escape from the increasing stress, hate, divisiveness, disease, murder, mayhem, destruction, and attacks on the Constitution out there in the real world. So, for my sake and maybe others, would you guys please stop the vitriol.”

        Enough is enough.

  3. VegasOriole

    June 12, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Maybe Elias is wary about getting burned over a top tier pitching prospect like in Houston. He had a list of pitchers but they all got picked, and they stuck to their draft board. Got to trust they took the best players, rather than selecting these guys for other reasons.

  4. CalsPals

    June 12, 2020 at 9:34 am

    Experts opinion #5, Baumler was the O’s best pick…go O’s…

  5. ptjhu

    June 12, 2020 at 10:00 am

    I’m sorry, but ‘…the Orioles were “intrigued by the bat potential and high contact in the strike zone….Ciolek said that Kjerstad didn’t swing and miss often with pitches in the strike zone.’

    But in his last full season at Arkansas, Kjerstad struck out 65 times while only walking 21 times. So those strikeouts came with pitches in the dirt?

    In The Athletic today, Dan Connolly wrote that Baltimore was “zigging when other teams zagged.” Which means that Elias & Co. know better than the rest of baseball. I hope Elias is right.

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 10:16 am

      Agree, too easy to ask where all the K’s came from IF he has such a high contact in the strike zone #’s…go O’s…

  6. Raveonjo

    June 12, 2020 at 10:09 am

    Rich, have you heard anything on the Arizona Fall League? These draft picks need to play, and with the small crowds in the AFL that seems like the perfect place to restart the minor leagues.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 12, 2020 at 10:17 am

      Rave, there has been some chatter about an expanded AFL, but until there’s a definitive plan to start the majors, there won’t be anything further.

  7. NormOs

    June 12, 2020 at 11:04 am

    Did Austin Martin have a physical problem that the O’s passed on the “best pure hitter” in the draft or was it the same old O’s problem, not lack of money, just to cheap to spend it?” Or does Genius 1 know more then everyone else in baseball? “Middle of the lineup bat” in what league? Oh wait, maybe he’s saving the money to buy a REAL major league ballplayer, yeah right!

  8. TxBirdFan

    June 12, 2020 at 11:07 am

    I’m glad we have some hitters to develop. Pitchers have been the focus for several years so now we might have the bats to go with them. Hopefully they also have good field fundamentals as well. So to review, we have young pitching, many young infielders, young catchers and several young outfielders. All we need now is a slugging DH and well have a pretty good team in 2024/5.

  9. willmiranda

    June 12, 2020 at 11:10 am

    If the O’s management really believes that these draftees were the best in their slots, better than players many other people preferred, let them pay the players at least slot and preferably above-slot money to prove the sincerity of their convictions. As Rich wrote in response to my previous post, the size of the money proves the O’s real interest in the players. I can’t see a high schooler with a college scholarship signing with the O’s unless he’s worried about what the pandemic’s effects on colleges will be. They certainly won’t be overcome by the O’s largesse. When this team plots to spend far less than it can, it’s never a surprise.

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 12, 2020 at 11:18 am

      I assume you don’t follow me on Twitter, Will because I retweeted Jon Heyman’s report that Mayo has agreed to terms.

      • willmiranda

        June 12, 2020 at 11:36 am

        Thanks, Rich. You’re right. I don’t Twit. My sympathies to the young man. How much did he sign for?

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 12, 2020 at 1:01 pm

      Heyman says $1.75 million.

  10. ClayDal

    June 12, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Question on the undrafted free agents. If they don’t sign with a team for the 20K bonus, are they free agents next year? For example, say a college player, junior or senior, was not drafted this year, but in a normal year would have been selected in rounds 6-10. If they pass on the 20K, would they be subject to being drafted next year? Or would they be free to sign with the team of their choice in excess of the 20K? If they are unrestricted free agents now, limited to 20K, how could they legally be subject to a draft next year? Wouldn’t it make more sense to reject the 20K, and declare yourself a free agent next June when you can sign with the team of your choice and exceed 20K? Signing now doesn’t really help you, since there is no minor leagues going on. I guess my question is is the 20K limit for this year only? Could this be a loophole that could be exploited by a shrewd agent like a Scott Boras?

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 12, 2020 at 1:06 pm

      John, the signing period ends August 1, and they have been granted, if their college juniors or seasons an extra season of eligibility.

      So, they can return to school and try their luck in 2021. If they’re high school players, they can go to college if they don’t sign.

      The $20k is for this year only because of the shortened draft.

      • WorldlyView

        June 12, 2020 at 3:05 pm

        I’m confused. If the $20K limit is bonus money, why can’t an MLB club (think Yankees) sign sought-after, unsigned prospects to large, irresistible CONTRACTs?

        • Rich Dubroff

          June 12, 2020 at 5:03 pm

          Professor Cohen, if you sign a player to a major league contract, which is what you’re saying, he goes on the 40-man roster and his clock starts running. Clubs have six years of control of a minor leaguer, and then six more as a major leaguer. Drafted players can no longer be signed to major league contracts–Dylan Bundy was, but that’s no longer permitted.

    • ClayDal

      June 12, 2020 at 1:23 pm

      But if they are free agents now, wouldn’t they be free agents next year? Last years sixth round top pick, Maverick Handley C from Stanford, got a 250K bonus from the Orioles. This year he would have had to settle for 20K. My thought is that it would be better for these players to remain free agents than be subjected to the draft. Since MLB has granted them free agency, albeit only 20K , how can they force them to enter next years draft? Would an arbitrator rule them unrestricted free agents and allow them to sign with anyone for excess of 20K? If that were the case, some players would benefit by hanging tight and wait for next year. Ordinarily a player undrafted with college eligibility left, would return to school and try his luck next year. But how can someone go from a free agent to being subjected to the draft? Hopefully, MLB figured that out when they cut the draft to 5 rounds. But seeing as they weren’t specific on the March agreement on pro rated salaries, perhaps they weren’t

      • Rich Dubroff

        June 12, 2020 at 4:59 pm

        They wouldn’t be free agents. They’d have nowhere to play except for independent ball. They’d go back to college–or to college as freshman to have a platform to hopefully make more money as a drafted player in 2021. If they were not drafted next year, their signing bonus as an undrafted free agent would likely be far lower than it would be this year.

        Undrafted free agents, who could be sixth-round picks, have to settle for much lower bonuses this year. if they don’t want to accept $20,000, they can go to or return to college and hope they can be drafted in a high round next year and get a bigger bonsu.

    • ClayDal

      June 12, 2020 at 1:40 pm

      Another question. What would stop a team ( like the Yankees) signing someone for 20K and then releasing them next year. Then they can re sign with the Yankees for more money. One way to get around the 20K limit

      • Rich Dubroff

        June 12, 2020 at 5:01 pm

        If they sign them for $20,000, why should they release them? The Yankees could have a mid-round draft pick for a bargain. Minor league players are bound to their organization for six years, and this is a way for major league teams to get talent cheaply this year.

    • ClayDal

      June 12, 2020 at 3:13 pm

      Wordly, if the Yankees signed someone to a large contract, they would have to put him on the 40 man roster. Which as we saw with Dylan Bundy, didn’t work out

    • ClayDal

      June 12, 2020 at 5:13 pm

      They would sign the player to a small bonus with the understanding that they would be released after next years draft. That way they can re-sign for a greater figure. In other words a handshake agreement. Take 20K now and we will release you after the draft making you a free agent. Since you signed a professional contract, can’t return to college. Then we will give 200K. That’s a way to circumvent the 20K restriction

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 12, 2020 at 5:52 pm

      John, they would have a bonus pool next year and your scenario would be a way to circumvent it, and wouldn’t be allowed.

  11. OriolesNumber1Fan

    June 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    I was disappointed at first that more pitching wasn’t on the menu, but as I did my homework, unlike other part-time town crier O’s fans((CP & BRR), I think it just got cold in here. lol)), I can see what Mike Elias liked in his picks. I really like shortstop Anthony Servideo from the University of Mississippi. He is the grandson of the late Curt Blefary, who won the 1965 American League Rookie of the Year Award with the Orioles and played on their 1966 World Series-winning club. The 21-year-old lefty hitter batted .390/.575/.695 in 17 games for Ole Miss this season, leading the Southeast Conference in OBP. He is considered a plus defender and gets 60 grades for his fielding and running. He posted a career .440 OBP that was .429 last year. And after hitting four homers combined his first two seasons, he hit five in 17 games this spring so maybe as he fills out more power will come. More to come…

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 1:31 pm

      Actually read up on players after the fact, found the article on the shortstop in interesting only because his grandfather played for the O’s, their synopsis, good leather, hope he grows into a hitter, personally think they could’ve done better, you could’ve made your point without Boogs & my reference, but that seems more awhile you are…yahoo…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 1:32 pm

      FYI, Mike should like his picks, doesn’t mean everyone else has to…go O’s…

      • OriolesNumber1Fan

        June 12, 2020 at 5:23 pm

        I don’t care that you & brr don’t like the picks. It makes no difference to me what you like or don’t like and apparently neither does Mike.

        • OriolesNumber1Fan

          June 12, 2020 at 5:34 pm

          And I was joking on that post lol. More intended for brr but you always seem to agree with him on everything that I’ve read on this site.

        • VICTORTEE

          June 13, 2020 at 9:17 am

          The analysts on MLB network were not too enthusiastic about “the Boy Wonder’s” picks either.

        • Boog Robinson Robinson

          June 14, 2020 at 11:29 am

          I mentioned day one, that Mr. Elias whiffed on pick #1. I have not commented an ANY other pick. Reading comprehension seems to be a problem with you.

          • OriolesNumber1Fan

            June 14, 2020 at 11:39 am

            No, your big mouth and your criticizing seems to be the problem. Already judging the poor kid just picked as a failure and Mike Elias for picking him. Who are you to judge anyone? You’re a part time Oriole fan and that’s all you are. You know nothing about how to run a professional baseball team so just shut up.

          • WorldlyView

            June 14, 2020 at 3:14 pm

            I come to this website to temporarily escape from the increasing stress, hate, divisiveness, disease, murder, mayhem, destruction, and attacks on the Constitution out there in the real world. So, for my sake and maybe others, would you guys please stop the vitriol.

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 6:57 pm

      Guess you wanna be like Mike, Mike…again tigers don’t change their stripes, your apologies & other crap mean nothing…but I like your approach to things, Mike….go O’s…

  12. Orial

    June 12, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    Educate me Rich if Kjerstad is chosen at number two slot why is he cheaper than Martin. Isn’t the amount dictated by the slot(spot in the draft)? A number 2 is a number 2? Or dors it go by pre-draft money allocation tagged to certain players no matter where they’re drafted? Have a feeling the latter is the answer

    • Rich Dubroff

      June 12, 2020 at 1:03 pm

      The slot is a suggested maximum. Teams often draft a player higher than they would have, Orial, so they can pay him more than he would have gotten normally, but lower than the max. They use the savings to overshoot the slot in succeeding rounds.

  13. Bancells Moustache

    June 12, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    For all of you upset that they passed on the Austin Martin, a guy no one had heard of 5 months ago and is apparently now a combination of Honus Wagner, Micheal Jordan and Jesus, the Tigers, Royals and Marlins didn’t seem to want to pick him either.
    I’ll give Elias credit, the man has a pair of spheres on him. This the kind of dice roll that gets a GM fired. While I can applaud his confidence, his competence remains to be seen.

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 1:33 pm

      Agree, if I’m allowed…great statement…go O’s…

    • CalsPals

      June 12, 2020 at 7:03 pm

      Sounds great, written by an O’s guy, wants to stay on Elias & Mike Jr’s side…we can only hope, can’t wait to see someone without a horse in the race comment….go O’s…

      • WorldlyView

        June 12, 2020 at 9:24 pm

        You may have a bit of a wait. As I noted 2 days ago, my definitive, no-horse draft analysis will not be forthcoming until 2025. Seriously, the results of this unconventional selection of players can have a wide outcome–ranging from disaster to brilliance.

    • CalsPals

      June 13, 2020 at 11:34 am

      With you, like you said, hopefully we’re still around…go O’s…

  14. BirdsCaps

    June 13, 2020 at 11:45 pm

    Let’s hope this all turns out. They got a few over slot players, so they weren’t necessarily being cheap ( thank god). As for Hyde’s statement about nice guys, does he not want nice guys or is he saying that talent is much more important than demeanor? If it’s the former, than I guess it’s the Alice Cooper draft strategy ( no more me nice guy). Furthermore how does the synergy of metrics and old school scouting work? Is there even a happy middle ground?

  15. OriolesNumber1Fan

    June 14, 2020 at 11:24 am

    I heard some rumblings in regards to Mike Elias and his 2 drafts and all his picks. Well his first year he said he would more or less dedicate using his analytics to his minor league pitching staffs due to the limited amount of staff that he just hired. And sure enough the minor league pitchers all pitched way better. A lot were picked from the previous gm but that’s all he had to work with. Well here it comes straight up for his selections and his hitters first year. http://www.orioleshangout.com/2020/06/13/eric-garfields-upsiders/

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