After the Orioles unexpectedly drafted Arkansas right fielder Heston Kjerstad with the No. 2 pick in the MLB Draft June 10, they drew some criticism from fans and analysts alike, but former Oriole David Dellucci says he isn’t concerned with the team’s draft selections.
Dellucci played for the Orioles in 1997 to kick off a 13-year career and is now a college baseball analyst for the SEC Network. Dellucci said on Glenn Clark Radio June 12 the choices of Kjerstad, Anthony Servideo (Ole Miss) and Jordan Westburg (Mississippi State) will pay off for the Orioles.
The Orioles were expected to draft Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin at No. 2, but they opted instead for Kjerstad, who hit .345/.425/.587 and 35 homers for Arkansas from 2018-2020. Dellucci said he is a very mature and intelligent player who has a good attitude and willingness to improve.
“He’s not a flashy guy. He’s not a guy that calls attention to himself,” Dellucci said June 12. “He definitely wants to learn, and he definitely respects the ballgame. … You want a player to go out there and give you 100 percent, and you want him to take to heart parts of the game that he has not mastered yet. And this is a player that I totally feel like, if there’s something that is not clicking in his game, he’s going to work on it until it gets better.”
One concern with Kjerstad is his walk-to-strikeout ratio. During his first two seasons, Kjerstad walked 46 times and struck out 116 times. However, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete showed improvement at the beginning of the 2020 season before it was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. In 16 games, he walked seven times and struck out nine times.
Dellucci agreed that Kjerstad needs to cut down his strikeouts, but he added that people overstate the issue. He said that Kjerstad faced high-caliber pitching in the SEC and that it is unfair to compare him to someone who played in a lesser conference.
“I would take him No. 2 anytime and I would feel comfortable with putting him in the outfield and putting him at the plate in the bottom of the ninth with the game on the line,” Dellucci said.
Dellucci also dished out praise for Servideo, the team’s third-round draft pick. Servideo played several positions at Ole Miss from 2018-2020, including shortstop this past season. He was a career .294/.440/.427 hitter and was named a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2018.
While Servideo shined at Ole Miss, he had a lackluster performance during the Cape Cod League during the summer of 2019. Dellucci does not consider the slump to be a big red flag, but he said it’s still a concern. College summer leagues use wood bats like in pro ball. Servideo’s difficulties with the heavier wood bats could be an obstacle for him, Dellucci said.
“It raises eyebrows, I’ll tell you that. The wooden bat is the ultimate equalizer in baseball. I mean, it takes a grown man to swing a wooden bat consistently and put up good numbers,” Dellucci said. “Now when I look at any summer league, I also have to realize that these players went through a full college baseball season. They were also student-athletes, so they had a lot going on during the course of that year. … I’m not sure if there was anything else or if he was nursing a nagging injury from the previous year that carried on into the Cape.”
Dellucci said Westburg, a 6-foot-3, 203-pound shortstop out of Mississippi State, might wind up playing third base depending on how he continues to develop. Westburg, the Orioles’ competitive balance pick at No. 30 overall, hit .285/.385/.446 from 2018-2020. He was hitting .317/.432/.517 in 2020 when the season was shut down.
His 22 errors in three years with the Bulldogs also leave room for him to develop as a defensive player.
“He was a phenomenal athlete from the first day that he stepped on the field,” Dellucci said. “I think everybody noticed him out there and he’s still in the development stage. … He made some adjustments to his swing. Don’t judge him off of his numbers over the last couple years. His ceiling is extremely high.”
Dellucci said Westburg is level-headed and can handle the ups and downs of a minor-league season. He said Westburg is quick and explosive and has a strong arm that could serve him at third or at shortstop. He helped Mississippi State get to the College World Series as a freshman in 2018. He had seven RBIs in a single game against North Carolina during that CWS.
All three players are going to work well for the Orioles, according to Dellucci. He emphasized that Kjerstad, Servideo and Westburg all played in the SEC, which he calls the best conference in college baseball. He added that the three played against many 2020 first-rounders and future first-round talents.
“I think they did great. I think they did really good. … I do not question one bit the caliber of players these guys are or the types of young men they are,” Dellucci said. “I’m very pleased with what the Orioles did.”
For more from Dellucci, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credits: Courtesy of Arkansas, Mississippi State and Ole Miss Athletics