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Wednesday Bird Droppings: Heston Kjerstad is officially an Oriole

In other news: it’s July, the minor league season has been cancelled and Spring Training 2.0 starts today.

NCAA BASEBALL: JUN 10 Div 1 Championship Super Regionals - Ole Miss at Arkansas Photo by Andy Altenburger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, Birdland!

Although an agreement was assumed ever since the Orioles made him the second overall pick in last month’s draft, the team made it official on Tuesday and signed University of Arkansas outfielder Heston Kjerstad to his initial contract with a bonus of $5.2 million, saving nearly $2.6 million on the slot value ($7.79 million) for the selection.

The signing of Kjerstad is big of many fronts. First, he is really good. Most publicly available rankings consider him to be the best left-handed power hitter in the 2020 class. They expect him to stick in right field and become a run producer at the highest level in short order. That likely makes him the O’s second-best offensive prospect behind Adley Rutschman.

Second, saving a bunch of money on Kjerstad’s signing bonus was integral to the rest of the Orioles draft strategy. The O’s have announced deals with Mississippi State shortstop Jordan Westburg and Tulane outfielder Hudson Haskin, with both agreeing to on-slot bonuses. If reports are to be believed, the O’s also have handshake agreements in place with their fourth- and fifth-round picks. That is where the Kjerstad savings come into play.

Coby Mayo (O’s fourth-round selection), a third baseman out of a Florida high school is expected to sign for $1.75 million, nearly $1.2 million above the $565,600 slot value. And Carter Baumler (fifth round), a pitcher from an Iowa high school, is expected to get $1.5 million, nearly $1.1 million more than the $422,300 slot value. That means Mike Elias and company needed to save at least $2.3 million on Kjerstad if they had any hope of signing up the two high schoolers. They got it done.

While they still need to make things official with the two high schoolers, that leaves third-round pick Anthony Servideo as the only Orioles draftee without a public agreement to join the club. As a college junior who was selected right around when he was expected to go Servideo is likely going to get right around slot value ($844,200), so the Kjerstad deal shouldn’t have any bearing on his contract.

Links & Notes

Orioles’ top 4 storylines for 2020 season -
This shortened season certainly makes things easier on the Orioles at the major league level as their shallow pool of pitching talent shouldn’t be as big of an issue. However, it does create a dicey situation for player development down on the farm. Of course, that is an issue that will not be unique to the O’s, so it may prove to be more of a blip rather than anything significant long term.

Orioles’ affiliates come to grips with canceled minor league season - Baltimore Sun
It didn’t come as a surprise, but it was still upsetting to see if made official that MiLB has cancelled the season for all major league affiliates. It’s unclear what this will mean for minor league organizations. These clubs already run on razor thin budgets. Losing an entire season could be a death blow without some form of help from the government or Major League Baseball.

Minor league season canceled in 2020 - School of Roch
Roch has quotes from the Norfolk, Bowie, Frederick and Delmarva general managers on the cancellation of the minor league season. It’s worth noting that Keys GM Dave Ziedelis mentions having a season in 2021. The Keys are one of the franchises that could be eliminated in MLB’s proposed shrinking of farm systems.

Bowie Baysox release ‘Undefeated Tour’ shirts after cancellation of 2020 minor-league season - NBC Sports
Sure, the shirt is a tad ugly, but it’s a funny idea and it could provide the Baysox with a small influx of cash in a time when minor league teams could really use it.

Orioles birthday

Is it your birthday? Happy birthday!

Perhaps the best one-season Oriole of all-time, Nelson Cruz, turns 40 today. His 2014 campaign with the O’s was vital to the club winning their first AL East crown in 17 years. Cruz hit .271/.333/.525 with a league-leading 40 home runs and finished seventh in the AL MVP voting.

It is the 49th birthday of Jamie Walker, a left-handed pitcher who finished his career with three seasons as an Oriole from 2007 through 2009. During his time in Baltimore, Walker had a 4.67 ERA over 162 appearances and 111.2 innings pitched.

Orioles history

1957 - The Orioles make history as pitcher George Zuverink and catcher Frank Zupo create the first ever “all-Z” battery in MLB.

1967 - Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer gives up a grand slam...but it comes in the minor leagues as he rehabs a back injury.

1967 - Mike Adamson becomes the first drafted player to bypass the minor leagues and go straight to the majors as he makes his MLB debut. However, he would play in the minor leagues later in his career.

1994 - The 11 total home runs hit by the Orioles and Angels ties the major league record for round-trippers in a game. The O’s hit six of the bombs and beat the Angels 14-7.