Orioles prospects Jackson Holliday, Heston Kjerstad make mark on MLB All-Star Futures Game

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The in-game interview can be a challenging task, and Heston Kjerstad didn’t make it any easier for Jackson Holliday.

As Holliday, the Orioles’ 19-year-old shortstop prospect, was in the middle of answering a question from the dugout at the MLB All-Star Futures Game, Kjerstad was comically unaware a live interview was occurring. Kjerstad, another top 100 prospect in the Orioles’ farm system, appeared in the frame and interrupted Holliday, who was answering a question about sharing the experience with his father, seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday.

“I’m glad he’s here. I got to experience a lot of All-Star Games with him,” Holliday began to say about his dad before responding to Kjerstad.

“I’m on the phone, Heston,” Holliday said, garnering laughs from the Peacock announcers and the top prospect himself.

The humorous exchange wasn’t the only thing the two Baltimore prospects did at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park on Saturday during the exhibition game that showcased the sport’s top minor league talent. Kjerstad started in right field and was the American League’s No. 3 hitter, going 1-for-2 with a single, while Holliday entered early at shortstop, went 0-for-1 and was prominently featured on the broadcast as MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 prospect.

The paths Kjerstad and Holliday took to reach the Futures Game are wildly different despite both being high draft picks. The former missed the first two years of his professional career after being drafted No. 2 overall in 2020 because of heart and hamstring ailments, but the 24-year-old zoomed through the minors over the past year. The latter is just 19 years old and has a .940 OPS as one of the youngest players in High-A.

On Saturday, they both represented the Orioles’ top-ranked farm system with nine players inside Baseball America’s top 100.

“It’s really neat. We’ve got a bunch of talented guys throughout the organization,” Holliday said about headlining Baltimore’s rich prospect ranks. “In Aberdeen, we’ve been playing pretty well lately, and we’ve got some pretty good hitters. It’s a lot of fun to be a part of such a talented organization and a bunch of really good guys.”

The Orioles drafted Holliday with the No. 1 overall pick last summer, and the wunderkind has since proven he was worthy.

“It’s pretty crazy to think about a year ago I was sitting at home waiting for the draft,” Holliday said. “To be here, it’s a blessing what’s happened in a year.”

“My goal is to move up as fast as possible, and Double-A is the next step,” he later said.

When he wasn’t cutting in on Holliday’s interview, Kjerstad kept up the offensive production he’s displayed this season as he’s posted a .979 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A. He flied out to center field in his first at-bat, but in his second, he recorded one of the game’s 11 hits as the National League topped the AL, 5-0. The left-handed slugger, who impressed during his stint in major league spring training earlier this year, grounded a 94.7 mph sinker on the first pitch between first and second for a single.

Across the field from Holliday, one of the NL’s shortstops was Severna Park High graduate Jackson Merrill. At 20 years old, Merrill is hitting .280 for the San Diego Padres’ High-A affiliate. The Baltimore native went 0-for-2 Saturday.

In his lone at-bat, Holliday struck out on four pitches against San Francisco Giants left-handed pitching prospect Carson Whisenhunt. After getting down 0-2, Holliday swung over Whisenhunt’s plus changeup.

“Well, I felt pretty good. I never faced him before, but Heston told me he had a good changeup, and he was right,” Holliday said with a laugh.

The interview during the contest wasn’t the only one Holliday did, as the shortstop was also interviewed pregame.

“I’ve just matured in my game in, I feel like, all aspects,” Holliday said. “I’m someone who likes to improve in every part of my game, so just being able to grow offensively and defensively has been pretty important. I feel like those are the biggest strides that I’ve made.”

His dad, the former Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals and New York Yankees outfielder, was also interviewed during the broadcast.

“It’s been a lot of fun. Today’s been a great day,” the elder Holliday said. “I really enjoyed watching him out there and get a chance to play in front of this kind of crowd on this stage at such a young age. I’m proud of him. He’s a great kid, and it’s been fun to watch.”

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