Arkansas Razorbacks outfielder Heston Kjerstad taken in first round of 2020 MLB Draft
baseball Edit

Heston Kjerstad taken in first round of 2020 MLB Draft

Heston Kjerstad is the ninth first-round MLB Draft pick in Arkansas history.
Heston Kjerstad is the ninth first-round MLB Draft pick in Arkansas history. (Arkansas Athletics)

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In a surprising move, the Baltimore Orioles selected Heston Kjerstad with the second overall pick of the 2020 MLB Draft on Wednesday, making him the ninth first-round pick in Arkansas history.

The talented slugger is the Razorbacks’ player taken in the first round since Andrew Bentinendi went seventh overall to the Red Sox in 2015. Only Jeff King (No. 1 in 1986) has been drafted higher out of Arkansas than Kjerstad, whose No. 2 pick has a slot value of nearly $7.8 million.

One of the most powerful hitters to ever suit up for the Razorbacks, Kjerstad appeared to be on his way to at least an All-American - if not National Player of the Year - season when the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancelation of his junior year after just 16 games.

In that span, though, he was slashing .448/.513/.791 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. The Amarillo, Texas, native also drastically cut down on his strikeouts, with his nine being the fewest on the team among the 10 players with at least 20 at bats.

Head coach Dave Van Horn has said multiple times that he believes Kjerstad would have hit about 25 home runs this season had it not been cut short. In addition to breaking the UA single-season record, that would have challenged Danny Hamblin’s career home runs record.

As it stands, Kjerstad’s 37 career home runs rank seventh in UA history. That is just five shy of matching the school record of 42 for the most during a three-year career, which is held by King, Brett Eibner and Andy Wilkins. He almost certainly would have shattered that mark if the season continued as scheduled.

Power wasn’t the only area in which Kjerstad excelled, though. He was also extremely consistent at the plate, hitting .332 as a freshman and .327 as a sophomore. Had the season not been cut short, Kjerstad likely would have made a run at the single-season and career hits records at Arkansas.

Even with the shortened junior season, Kjerstad cracked the UA’s career top-10 lists for batting average (.343, t-10th), slugging percentage (.590, 7th) and hit by pitches (33, t-6th).

The Razorbacks have now had at least one player taken in every MLB Draft since 1975. Arkansas’ streak of 46 years is tied with Auburn - assuming it has a player drafted - for the second longest active streak in the SEC. They trail only Texas A&M (49).

MLB Draft streaks by SEC teams

1. Texas A&M: 49*

2. Arkansas: 46

3. Auburn: 45*

4. Georgia: 42*

t-5. LSU: 38*

t-5. Tennessee: 38*

7. Alabama: 34*

8. Missouri: 33*

9. Ole Miss: 31*

10. Vanderbilt: 29*

11. Florida: 24*

12. South Carolina: 22*

13. Kentucky: 14*

14. Mississippi State: 4*

First-round picks from Arkansas

1981 - OF Kevin McReynolds - 6th overall, San Diego Padres

1986 - SS Jeff King - 1st overall, Pittsburgh Pirates

1999 - RHP Dave Walling - 27th overall, New York Yankees

2007 - LHP Nick Schmidt - 23rd overall, San Diego Padres

2008 - 3B Logan Forsythe - 46th overall, San Diego Padres

2010 - 3B Zack Cox - 25th overall, St. Louis Cardinals

2013 - RHP Ryne Stanek - 29th overall, Tampa Bay Rays

2015 - OF Andrew Benintendi - 7th overall, Boston Red Sox

2020 - OF Heston Kjerstad - 2nd overall, Baltimore Orioles