Across the past two seasons of college baseball, the University of Arkansas has been a staple to the College World Series. A big component for that has been slugger Heston Kjerstad.
Teams have been salivating over the Canyon Randall High School product for quite some time. Kjerstad was selected in the 36th-round by the Seattle Mariners in 2017 but instead sought the college route. He landed at the University of Arkansas where he improved his draft stock tremendously.
Now, he rests as a potential first-round selection. Kjerstad is looking to join the seven former Razorbacks already within the MLB ranks. Although he may not succeed Jeff King in the highest draft pick (number one overall), he’ll look to become the ninth first-round pick in Razorback history.
Kjerstad’s 6-foot-3 inch height and 220-pound frame provides him with a lot of power. That, in fact, has been his claim to fame in the last few years. The Texas product made his name known quite well in his freshman season with 14 home runs. He then followed that up with 17 bombs across his sophomore campaign. He slashed .332/.419/.553 in his initial collegiate season and continued that through his junior season. Through a shortened 2020 campaign he posted a hitting mark of .424/.485/.814. He also added six home runs and 20 RBI.
Kjerstad has been labeled one of the top left-handed bats across the field in the draft. His strength and bat speed gives him raw power to all fields. In total, across his collegiate tenure, Kjerstad slugged 37 home runs and struck 129 RBI. He also slashed a mark of .343/.421/.590. If you transfer that into a full length 162 game MLB season, that would equate to roughly 40 home runs, 139 RBI, and a .343 batting average. Only 10 MLB players throughout history have hit that mark. While the collegiate and professional leagues are different, it does show that Kjerstad has the full capacity to be consistent at the next level.
In terms of fielding, Kjerstad projects solidly as a corner outfielder due to his strong arm. He has good accuracy which gives even more validity to the claim of him being a corner outfielder.
While Kjerstad may wield a powerful bat and have a strong arm, there is a slight chink in his armor. At best Kjerstad is an average runner once he gets going and not much of a speed threat on the base paths. Speed, in general, might just be his Achilles heel highlighted by his below-average speed out of the batter’s box.
Gearing up from the left side of the plate, Kjerstad show’s a lot of similarity to Arizona Diamondback star Jake Lamb. Both grip the bat from the left side of the plate while right hand dominant with their throwing. Aside from a ten-pound difference in weight, Kjerstad and Lamb share a similar build.
Diving into their swings, Kjerstad appears to have a more exaggerated version of Lamb’s swing. Both feature some version of big hand circles during their swings. The biggest variation between the two comes in their leg kicks. Kjerstad offers a higher leg kick in a singular movement while Lamb has a shorter step in a double-tap like motion. Both have powerful inside-out swings that allow them to be effective in any field.
Kjerstad’s ability to launch the ball from any angle and to any location makes him a prime top-ten pick. He might need a little refining with his batting stance to fully catch up to major league pitching, but nearly big-league ready. His hand-eye coordination is strong and will suit him well in what could be a quick climb to the MLB ranks.
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