While the baseball postseason rolls on, a variety of players who are hoping to eventually play their way onto MLB rosters are in action in the Arizona Fall League. Seven Orioles prospects, headlined by outfielder Heston Kjerstad, have been in action with the Scottsdale Scorpions (logo above on Kjerstad’s hat) along with prospects from the Atlanta, Angels, Giants, and Red Sox organizations.
Through two weeks of games, the Scorpions have played to a 6-6 record. The league as a whole has been loaded with offense so far, with all batters combining to hit to an .830 OPS and an average of 6.64 runs scored per team per game. It’s a lot. Perhaps contributing to this or perhaps caused by it, pitchers are very command-challenged, with a league-wide BB/9 of 6.0.
The league play runs through November 10. Each week, we’ll take a quick look at how the Orioles minor league players out there are doing.
After one week of games, Kjerstad led all AFL batters in hits. A week later, he sits in second place with 15 hits in nine games, trailing only the guy some people hoped the Orioles would draft instead of Kjerstad, Twins prospect Austin Martin, who now has 16.
Things are going well out there for Heston. His three home runs also only trail the league leader by one. Seven of his 15 hits have gone for extra bases, and he is OPSing 1.053 overall. It’s an offense-heavy league, but he’s still way ahead of the average for the league, so far.
Kjerstad hasn’t walked much, only two times in 44 plate appearances. With him hitting the ball with authority, it’s hard to worry about that too much, though he’s also struck out nearly 30% of the time. This is better than if he was not doing well but was also striking out that much.
Here’s Kjerstad knocking one out to the opposite field. We’ll just have to take it on faith that the ball eventually landed.
In his first at-bat of the afternoon, Heston Kjerstad homers and extends his hit streak to eight games. His 3rd HR of the AFL season. pic.twitter.com/qmWdb1LDxr— The Verge- An Orioles MiLB Podcast (@BSLOnTheVerge) October 13, 2022
The 23-year-old infielder from Cuba has appeared in seven of the twelve Scorpions games. It’s been a contact-heavy set of results for Prieto so far, with 22 balls in play out of 28 plate appearances. Not much excitement to be found in the batting line though, which is adding up to a .561 OPS.
Like Prieto, there’s not much to excite in Trimble’s results so far. He’s not as contact-heavy, with more walks and more strikeouts. Trimble is batting 3-16 through seven games and has yet to collect an extra-base hit.
This 24-year-old righty is the only one of the four O’s pitchers sent out to Arizona who’s making starts. The small sample is tough, as Denoyer has allowed a 1.950 WHIP to date, but I wonder how he’d be faring in a more neutral run environment. Denoyer is facing mostly younger competition, but with eight strikeouts and three walks out of 35 batters faced, that’s not awful.
A Rule 5 draft-eligible righty. The strikeout and walk totals are good - a ratio of 7/1 in 5.2 innings, though he’s allowed four runs in the same time frame.
The 26-year-old lefty Lucas, acquired for Jonathan Villar, is also going to be Rule 5 draft eligible. Lucas has now pitched in three games, allowing only an unearned run over four innings. Seven strikeouts out of 17 batters faced - that’ll keep a guy in the 40-man roster conversation.
Like Denoyer and Hoffman, he has a 6+ ERA over a handful of outings. Unlike those guys, he’s not notching a bunch of strikeouts.
The average age of an AFL batter is 22.0 years old; the average pitcher is 23.2 years old. It’s an older group of players the O’s have sent out here, which is also something to keep in mind. The Orioles will surely be evaluating these players on things other than their batting lines or ERAs, but for fans back east, that’s about all we have to go on. Hopefully Kjerstad can continue to show encouraging things and the others can start to add some accomplishments as well.