The roads that Jackson Holliday and Heston Kjerstad have taken to this point in their careers couldn’t be more different.
Holliday, the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft, has dominated in his first year of professional ball to zoom up prospect rankings. Kjerstad, meanwhile, missed the first two years of his career after being drafted No. 2 overall in 2020 with heart and hamstring ailments, only to reemerge in the past year and zoom through Baltimore’s minor league system.
Despite their differences, the prospects will share a field next month to represent Baltimore at the 2023 MLB All-Star Futures Game — a showcase of the sport’s top minor league talent.
For Holliday, the Futures Game nod comes less than 24 hours after he moved up to No. 1 on MLB Pipeline’s prospect ranking Sunday night. Between Low-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen, the 19-year-old is slashing .325/.463/.532 — good for a .994 OPS — with 27 extra-base hits, 20 stolen bases and an even strikeout-to-walk ratio. Holliday is still ranked No. 2 by Baseball America, with the only prospect ahead of him playing against the Orioles this week at Camden Yards in Cincinnati Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz.
After starting his 2022 season last June in Low-A, Kjerstad has jumped all the way to Triple-A thanks to a scorching-hot bat. The outfielder-first baseman posted a .960 OPS with Double-A Bowie before earning a promotion to Norfolk, where he’s hit .286 with four homers in 17 games. According to Baseball America, the 24-year-old is the eighth-best prospect in Baltimore’s system and No. 76 overall.
After Jordan Westburg’s big league call-up Monday, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said he’s continually impressed with how the organization’s prospects — ranked by Baseball America as the best of any in the sport — are performing.
“You look at what our prospects are doing, our offensive prospects especially with the numbers they’re putting up in Double-A and Triple-A and Jackson at High-A at 19, it’s extremely exciting for us, not only up here, but in the organization going forward,” Hyde said. “It’s fun to see we’re on a lot of top lists and Jackson gets No. 1 prospect, so that’s a credit to a lot of people and it shows you how healthy we are, especially at the plate and from a hitting standpoint. We have a lot of fun guys to watch right now and more guys who will be making their debuts for the next couple years.”
Holliday and Kjerstad follow in the footsteps of other Orioles prospects to participate in the Futures Game. Last year, infielder Gunnar Henderson represented Baltimore at the event before making his MLB debut in late August and becoming the sport’s top prospect in the offseason. In 2021, catcher Adley Rutschman, MLB’s No. 1 prospect at the time, and right-hander Marcos Diplán played in the game.
Other recent Baltimore prospects to play in the Futures Game include left-hander DL Hall (2019), left-hander Alexander Wells (2018), outfielder Ryan Mountcastle (2018), left-hander Tanner Scott (2017), catcher Chance Sisco (2016 and 2017) and right-hander Hunter Harvey (2013).
The Futures Game will be livestreamed on Peacock on July 8 at 7 p.m. as part of the All-Star Break festivities at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.
Orioles fans have the chance to send another member of the organization to Seattle in two weeks with the second round of All-Star Game voting beginning Monday. Rutschman is up against the Texas Rangers’ Jonah Heim to start behind the plate for the American League for what would be the first All-Star Game appearance for either backstop. Voting ends at noon Thursday, with fans allowed to vote once per 24-hour period, and the winners at each position will be revealed at 7 p.m. on ESPN.
Source: Berkshire mont