Heston Kjerstad, the outfielder the Baltimore Orioles selected with the second overall pick in last June's draft, remains sidelined by "recurrent inflammation" of his heart, according to general manager Mike Elias, who provided an update on Wednesday to reporters (including Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun).
Kjerstad, 22, has yet to make his professional debut as a result of his myocarditis, a condition that has become associated with COVID-19. Boston Red Sox lefty Eduardo Rodríguez missed all of the 2020 season after suffering from his own bout with myocarditis, which impacts the heart's "ability to pump and causing rapid or abnormal heart rhythms," according to the Mayo Clinic.
It's unknown if Kjerstad has ever contracted COVID-19, though Elias told reporters that there was no way his condition could have been detected prior to the draft.
Kjerstad, who played collegiately at Arkansas, was ranked by CBS Sports as the 17th best player in the 2020 class. Here's what we wrote at the time:
Heston won't be the first Kjerstad to play pro ball: his brother Dexter spent a number of seasons as part of the Kansas City Royals and Miami Marlins organizations. He does have a chance to become the first one in his family to reach the majors, however. Kjerstad is a big left-hander with ample strength and a bad-ball appetite that keeps his walk rate lean. He has a track record of hitting against good pitching (.343/.421/.590 in three years of playing SEC competition), and this season he sliced into his strikeout rate, reducing it from 19.6 percent to 11.5 percent. Teams will have to decide if they trust his odd, albeit adaptable swing enough to project him as a Corey Dickerson type. If so, Kjerstad could be the first collegiate outfielder off the board.
If there is a shred of good news here, it's that Elias believes it's a matter of "when" Kjerstad will begin his professional career, as opposed to "if." "This is still a situation that we feel will be a matter of time," he said, again per Ruiz. "This is a bump in the road."