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Orioles announce roster for Bowie alternate training site

The roster of players had been expected to include 2019 #2 pick Heston Kjerstad. He is not listed.

MLB: AUG 27 Orioles at Nationals Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In an ordinary season, a team’s Triple-A affiliate is there to get players ready to potentially help out the big league club in a pinch, and keep them ready. That avenue is not available in 2021, with minor leagues delayed by a month, which is why MLB is reviving the alternate training site concept from last year. The Orioles announced their training site roster on Tuesday afternoon.

The most noteworthy name on the roster is one who is absent. That’s 2019 #2 overall pick Heston Kjerstad. About a month ago, GM Mike Elias told Orioles reporters that Kjerstad would be reporting to the alternate site in order to work out. Kjerstad did not get to participate in either last summer’s alternate site or last fall’s instructional league due to myocarditis. That’s inflammation of the heart muscle caused by a virus.

“I think he’s going to be there as soon as we start,” Elias said on March 10. So it’s a little bit of an eyebrow-raiser that Kjerstad is not on the initial roster after that declaration. Hopefully Kjerstad’s absence is not a sign of a setback in his recovery from that condition. It sounds like a scary thing to have lingering for this many months.

With no Kjerstad, there’s a 33-player roster reporting to the Bowie camp, many of whom were already familiar faces from later innings of Orioles spring training games. In another month when minor league games get under way, the Triple-A Norfolk roster will probably draw heavily from this set of players:

Pitchers (18)

  • Fernando Abad
  • Keegan Akin
  • Cody Carroll
  • Marcos Diplán
  • Thomas Eshelman
  • Jay Flaa
  • Conner Greene
  • Eric Hanhold
  • Mickey Jannis
  • Travis Lakins Sr.
  • Zac Lowther
  • Isaac Mattson
  • Zach Muckenhirn
  • Evan Phillips
  • Josh Rogers
  • Cole Sulser
  • Konner Wade
  • Spenser Watkins

Catchers (4)

  • Nick Ciuffo
  • Brett Cumberland
  • Taylor Davis
  • Austin Wynns

Infielders (8)

  • Rylan Bannon
  • Jahmai Jones
  • Richie Martin
  • Mason McCoy
  • Seth Mejias-Brean
  • Tyler Nevin
  • Ryan Ripken
  • Stevie Wilkerson

Outfielders (2)

  • Yusniel Díaz
  • Chris Shaw

The O’s alternate site roster is expected to play some organized games against the players from the Nationals alternate site, so there will be some actual game action happening between now and minor league Opening Day.

With that in mind, it stands out that there are only two outfielders listed. Someone is going to have to play the outfield in those games. There will probably be some outfield conversion experiments going on. Is that going to be Jahmai Jones getting time in center field? Tyler Nevin trying out an outfield corner? Stevie Wilkerson doing more of his super utility player magic?

The first two outcomes are more interesting from a prospect development standpoint. It’s also possible there won’t be much of this experimenting at all, if Ryan McKenna’s stay at the MLB level proves to be brief and he’s at this training site by the end of the week.

Teams are permitted to have a five-man taxi squad traveling with them for each road trip this season, so there can be quick replacements by players already under COVID protocols. Those players are also likely to be drawn from this site’s roster. McKenna was added from the taxi squad to the Orioles yesterday. Lakins, Martin, Mattson, and Wynns are also on the opening trip.