When the Orioles made their third No. 1 overall MLB Draft pick in team history on Sunday night, the pick was a popular one with a couple of the MLB Network analysts. They reacted quite favorably on the telecast when the O’s selected high school shortstop Jackson Holliday from Stillwater, Okla.
The son of long-time big league outfielder Matt Holliday, Jackson was Baseball America’s national High School Player of the Year. Holliday, who gets 60 grades from scouts for his hit tool, running and arm, is age 18 and hit .685/.749/1.392 (89-for-130) with 29 doubles, six triples, 17 home runs, 74 runs scored, 79 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 40 games during his senior season. His 89 hits set a national high school record.
He follows Ben McDonald in 1989 and Adley Rutschman in 2019 as O’s 1/1 picks and is the first high school position player the team made its top draft pick since Manny Machado in 2010.
The slot amount to sign Holliday is listed at $8,842,200.
“They didn’t cut a deal here,” said Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com on the MLB Network draft telecast. “They took one of the best players. I think Jackson Holliday is probably the best combination of hitting ability and ceiling in this draft. He plays on the infield, Druw Jones (drafted second) is an outfielder, there is defensive value here. I like Harold's (Reynolds) Bobby Witt Jr. parallel. He is a five-tool shortstop. I can’t think of too many players - and Jackson Holliday is one - that got better in every phase of the game (this season). Better hitter, stronger, faster, better arm, better shortstop as a senior. He was a good player coming in and he’s a great player now. I love this pick for the Orioles.”
Here is what Reynolds said: “This goes back to, for me, the Adley Rutschman-Bobby Witt conversation the Orioles had back then (about which player to take No. 1 in 2019). I think they got Bobby Witt Jr. in this kid. The similarities are so amazing to me. So, I think they now have both, the Rutschman and the Witt that they were looking for.”
So that is pretty high praise for Holliday, who spoke to reporters via O’s Zoom.
“I want to be the best player and honor the Orioles for selecting me, and I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it to the major leagues to have a great career for them and for the fans," said Holliday.
The Orioles had three more picks after the 1/1 selection last night.
With their second pick, the No. 33 overall selection, a pick in Competitive Balance Round A, the Orioles selected outfielder Dylan Beavers from the University of California. In college this year as a junior, Beavers, still age 20, batted .291/.426/.634 with a 1.060 OPS and had 16 doubles, three triples, 17 homers and 50 RBIs. He hit 18 homers last season and has 36 for his Cal career. A lefty batter, he began his college career as a pitcher.
MLB.com ranked him as the draft’s No. 22 prospect. Baseball America had him at No. 26 and ranked his hit tool as a 40, power at 60, running at 60, fielding 55 and arm at 60. He is a two-time all-Pac 12 first-team player.
With selection No. 42 overall, the first pick in round two of this draft, the Orioles selected Clemson third baseman Max Wagner, the 2022 ACC Player of the Year. This season for the Tigers he batted .369/.496/.852 with 15 doubles, 27 homers and 76 RBIs. He walked 45 times and fanned 51.
Wagner came in at No. 66 on MLB.com's list of draft prospects, and at No. 70 on Baseball America's. The latter graded his hit tool at 45, power 55, run 45, field 50 and arm at 55.
With selection No. 67 overall, a Competitive Balance Round B pick, the Orioles took University of Florida center fielder Jud Fabian. He was a player the Orioles were reportedly targeting to take No. 41 last year (when they did take Connor Norby) but Boston drafted him No. 40 in 2021. Fabian did not sign with the Red Sox and instead returned to college. Now, a year later, the Orioles have drafted him after all.
In 66 games for the Gators this season, Fabian hit .239/.414/.598/.1.012 with 10 doubles, a triple, 24 homers and 55 RBIs. He walked 62 times and fanned 69, and hit 56 career homers for Florida, third-best in school history.
MLB.com deemed Fabian its No. 52 prospect for this draft. Baseball America put him at No. 61, being more bullish on his defense, grading his fielding at a 65 and arm at 55. MLBPipeline.com gave him a 55 grade for fielding and 50 for arm.
Orioles director of draft operations Brad Ciolek spoke with media via Zoom after last night’s draft on a call that was over not long before 1 a.m. He was pleased with the O’s selections on day one.
“Extremely happy with the guys we selected,” Ciolek said. “Obviously, start with Jackson Holliday and the things he brings to the table as far as a fundamentally sound player with hit, power tools and plate discipline. And we also got in Max Wagner a player who has significant raw power to all fields, on-base skills and the ability to play a solid third base. And then we also got the two outfielders who possess traits of power and speed.”
The three college hitters this year combined to hit 68 homers and had good walk-to-strikeout rates. By design?
“Yeah, those are always traits that we kind of key in on, as far as on the analytic front. So, you could kind of say that those guys are kind of our flavor in terms of what we are looking for as an offensive profile,” he said.
Ciolek talked further about the O’s second pick, Beavers from Cal.
“I think we are really intrigued by Dylan’s unique power-and-speed combination, and we think there is more power in the tank there, especially when we get him on a pro strength and conditioning program," he said. "We think we will see the power numbers tick up, and we also think we can help him in terms of his contact rates are concerned as well,”
The Orioles have selected just four pitchers in the first 10 rounds of three drafts under Mike Elias, although the 2020 draft was just five rounds. In 2019 their first eight selections were position players. In 2020 their first five were, and the first five were last year as well.
And, on the first night of the 2022 draft, the O’s made four selections, and all four were position players. Ciolek was asked about why the Orioles continue to pass on pitchers in the draft.
“I know you guys probably are not going to believe me, but we actually did have a couple of pitchers that were picked right before us throughout the evening, and I’m telling the truth there," he insisted. "But that is the way the ball bounces. Obviously, we are going to continue to look for the best players available (today), and we do have a lot of pitchers on our board, so hopefully we’ll get a couple of those guys. But bottom line is we’re looking for best player available, regardless of position.”