Kjerstad is one of the top NCAA outfielders in the 2020 MLB Draft. Kjerstad is a three-year starter at the University of Arkansas and has been a solid player in the SEC since his freshman season. Kjerstad was a force hitting in the two spot for the Razorbacks offense.
This year, Kjerstad was hitting .448/.513/.791 when the season prematurely ended. In 16 games, Kjerstad had belted six home runs and had a hit in every single game. He also scored a run in 75 percent of the team’s games.
Kjerstad is known for his in game power. He hit 14 home runs his freshman year and 16 his sophomore year. If you take what he had currently done and project it out over a 60 game season, Kjerstad was looking at somewhere around 24 home runs this spring. That’s the type of power that has you challenging Spencer Torkelson for best home run hitter in the nation.
Kjerstad isn’t considered fast although he did run a 6.56 60 his senior year in high school. But since then, he has filled out his 6’3” frame and added some muscle. Kjerstad is fast enough to steal a couple of bases here and there although the Arkansas offense didn’t do much base stealing because they haven’t had too. Kjerstad has 8 career stolen bases in 125 games and could probably project for 10+ over 140 games in a pro season.
To be clear, you are’t drafting Kjerstad for his defense or speed. You are drafting him for his bat. That is not a knock on his defense because he handles his glove well in right field and possesses a strong throwing arm that gets good marks for accuracy. He is baseball smart with a lot of experience in the toughest conference in college baseball.
Kjerstad played for the US National College Team last summer and led the team hitting .395/.426/.651 with nothing but wooden bats. Kjerstad’s game log is littered with hits, runs scored, and runs batted in. He is a middle of the order type of hitter who gets on base a lot. Also of note, Kjerstad has been hit 33 times in his college career.
Kjerstad did have his strikeout issues over the last two seasons. That is one of the knocks on his game. This year he was on pace for around 40 strikeouts with about 32 walks. Kjerstad has tightened his strikeout to walk ratio every season and this year he was finally looking to put everything together.
Another knock on Kjerstad is his long circular load. However, through those 16 games, it looked like he had done a lot of work shortening up his load with success. He does take a big leg lift but doesn’t seem to get off balance finding ways to make contact against the left-on-left curves and sliders he faces. When he shortens up, he still hits for some pop and makes very good contact. But, with his power potential, you want him not shortening up the approach too often.
I’ve seen Kjerstad turn on 95 inside ripping it foul and staying back on 64 and drive it the other way for power. He is an aggressive hitter who seems to be able to do it all. In several years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hitting successfully in the middle of someone’s MLB order. Kjerstad gets on base, hits the ball to all fields, moves runners, drives in runs, and hits for power. He is a very consistent player and someone is going to pay big money for that left-handed consistency.
Kjerstad doesn’t quite seem to be the type of player the Royals draft often because he isn’t a plus up-the-middle defender. However, he does show very good on base skills and consistency with solid everyday defensive capabilities. Kjerstad also played with GMDM’s son as a Razorback so perhaps the Royals have more information than some other teams on what he’s like in the clubhouse, the weight room, and off the field. Kjerstad has been projected in the Top 10 consistently and the Royals could surprise us by taking him and trying to play up his speed. Personally, I think Garrett Mitchell is more a Royals type of player because of the defense and speed. But, who knows?
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Image from NWA Homepage. No photo credit was given.
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