Revisiting notes on Kjerstad, Westburg, Ortiz and McKenna

Some facts are informative, some are random. Some are just fun, which is why they have their own name.

Here are a few facts that fit in any category, with some extra notes and thoughts attached.

Fact: Heston Kjerstad became the sixth rookie in Orioles history to hit two or more home runs in his first five career games. Kjerstad joined Chance Sisco (two in 2017), Trey Mancini (three in 2016), Manny Machado (three in 2012), Andrés Mora (two in 1976) and Curt Belfary (three in 1965).

Follow: Sisco and Mora are proof that early power doesn’t always lead to staying power.

Sisco was the organization’s No. 1 prospect in 2017, but he hit .199 with a .658 OPS in parts of five seasons with the Orioles covering only 191 games and played independent ball this summer. Mora was hyped in the ‘70s and elected in 2003 to the Mexican Professional Baseball Hall of Fame, but he hit .223/.256/.383 in 235 major league games.

The expectations for Kjerstad are much higher. He could get most of his at-bats as the designated hitter next season due to a crowded outfield, but the club will keep working on his defense. He also made some starts at first base in the minors. The bat is why MLB Pipeline ranks him as the 24th prospect in baseball.

The Orioles selected Kjerstad’s contract on Sept. 14 and put him on the 40-man and active rosters. They included him on the Division Series roster. And he’s going to be on the Opening Day roster.

Fact: Jordan Westburg’s 17 doubles in his first 68 career games are the second-most in Orioles history behind Adley Rutschman’s 22 in 2022. Westburg batted .284/.354/.432 in 82 plate appearances against left-handers and .246/.288/.388 in 146 plate appearances against right-handers. He also slashed .348/.508/.522 (16-for-46) when ahead in the count.

Follow: Westburg would get starts against lefties and be lifted for a pinch-hitter – often times Adam Frazier – against right-handed relievers. The situation often resembled a platoon arrangement based on Frazier’s presence and the rest of the roster.

As if the Orioles were easing Westburg into major league competition while chasing a division title.

Frazier is a free agent and likely to join a different organization. The Orioles could sign another veteran infielder but decide that Westburg, who registered a 1.2 bWAR and 1.1 fWAR in 68 games, is ready to be a regular in the lineup at second or third base.

The roster flexibility and prospects at Triple-A Norfolk make it difficult to nail down Westburg’s role in November, but his potential at the plate and in the field were evident in limited duty after debuting June 26. Seems like the right time to make more of a commitment to him.

Fact: Joey Ortiz joined Trey Mancini in 2016, Manny Machado in 2012 and Andy Etchebarren from 1962-65 as the only players in team history with at least four RBIs in their first three career games.

Follow: Etchebarren needed that many years? What happened is, he drove in a run in his major league debut in Game 1 of a Sept. 26, 1962 doubleheader, had three at-bats on Sept. 30 and didn’t play for the Orioles again until hitting a three-run homer in Game 2 of a Sept. 6, 1965 doubleheader.

Ortiz was recalled and optioned three times, and he didn’t reappear after June 23. He went 1-for-3 with three RBIs in his debut April 27 in Detroit and 1-for-3 with an RBI in Game 2 of an April 29 doubleheader in the same series, but the Orioles optioned him the following day and recalled left-handed hitting outfielder Kyle Stowers.

The rookie season consisted of only 15 games, with Ortiz going 7-for-33. But he hit .321/.378/.507 with 30 doubles, four triples, nine home runs, 58 RBIs and 11 stolen bases in 88 games with Triple-A Norfolk. Any all-field, no-hit talk was muted.

Ortiz played shortstop, second base and third base with the Orioles and Tides, and he could break camp next spring in a utility role. He has the glove and versatility to do it. But the roster would need some adjustments to accommodate him beyond Frazier’s free agency.

Fact: Ryan McKenna led the majors with 55 games off the bench. He made 12 appearances as a pinch-hitter and 11 as a pinch-runner. His 116 games as a sub over the last two years are the most in the majors.

Follow: McKenna’s value to manager Brandon Hyde is trumpeted, with the speed, defense at all three outfield spots and dugout energy hard to replace. But the Orioles keep doing it anyway.

McKenna broke camp with the team but missed celebrations for the playoff berth and division title. The Orioles optioned him on July 5, recalled him July 25, optioned him Aug. 11, recalled him Aug. 19, optioned him Sept. 14, recalled him Sept. 20 and optioned him again Sept. 27.

He was on the taxi squad for the Division Series, with the club choosing Kjerstad as a 14th position player.

Among the offseason decisions is whether to give McKenna his projected raise in arbitration, which sets at $740,000. McKenna is out of minor league options. Losing a seat on the shuttle could be good for his career but also jeopardize his spot in the organization.

There’s also the glut of outfielders that includes Kjerstad and Colton Cowser, who made his major league debut this year. But they bat from the left side.


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