Young Jackson Holliday played his first game for High-A Aberdeen on April 25, moving up from Low Single-A Delmarva after producing an OPS of 1.182 in 14 games there.
It was fast, but not unexpected from the player that is so skilled, has such a strong background in the game and was taken No. 1 overall in the 2022 MLB Draft.
But it was a few weeks after that promotion, that Holliday’s immense talent was on full display. On May 16-17 at Winston-Salem, he went 8-for-9 over a two-game stretch with two doubles, three triples, a homer and 11 RBIs for the IronBirds.
It was a stunning two-game display.
“It was like watching 'MLB: The Show,'” Aberdeen manager Roberto Mercado told me this week of those games for the IronBirds. “Talk about hitting the ball all over the park and he was hitting the ball with power too. Along with that he was and has been playing great defense and has a great baseball IQ. All season he has played really, really well.”
Through his first 24 Aberdeen games, Holliday was batting .410 with an OPS of 1.243. But finally in recent games, the bat has slowed a bit. That can’t be a surprise either for any player, no matter how good.
Holliday, who did go 1-for-4 with a homer in a loss last night, is 3-for-19 in June and 6-for-38 his past 10 games.
Last week, Aberdeen faced the team that leads the South Atlantic League in team ERA in New York Yankees affiliate Hudson Valley.
“I think the Hudson Valley series, they have some quality arms over there and it was great for him to be exposed to a bunch of different shapes and pitches. We did take four out of six, so we did well. But those were some great arms. Drew Thorpe (the Yankees’ No. 6 prospect) threw a great game on Sunday against us. But all our guys being exposed to those arms will help them going forward," the skipper said.
Sometimes players learn a lot from struggles.
“Absolutely,” said Mercado. “One thing that doesn’t waver is his plate discipline. You see by his walk totals this season (29 in 34 games). He just has an elite, advanced approach at the plate where he can be behind 0-2 and will find a way to battle back to 3-2. And then he makes hard contact or takes his walk. He continues to do that.”
And in those 34 Aberdeen games, Holliday, 19, is batting .328/.461/.574/.1.035 with seven doubles, four triples, five homers, 23 RBIs, 33 runs and 11 stolen bases. Between Aberdeen and Delmarva, he is batting .349 with an OPS of 1.079.
Mercado sees Holliday as having elite talent yes, but also an elite desire to get better wherever he can and whenever he can.
“I think he is an elite learner. If he makes a mistake, we’ll talk about it, and it won’t happen again. All the guys love being around him. Gets after it in the weight room and early work. And the way he is with the fans too, everyone wants his picture or autograph. All those years being around big league clubhouses (with his dad Matt Holliday) has prepared him for what is to come,” said Mercado.
Mercado cited a play from the Hudson Valley series last week that showed off Holliday’s baseball smarts. He was playing short in a tie game with two outs in the last of the tenth. With a runner on second, a slow roller was hit to him. He knew he could not get the runner at first but faked making a throw as the baserunner rounded third and, because of Holliday's deke, was an easy out at home. Aberdeen won the game the next inning.
“You can’t really teach that, the IQ is there. He is just fun to watch man. It’s been a pleasure,” Mercado said.
Even with Holliday's torrid hitting pace from earlier slowing a bit as somewhat had to be expected, he rose up one spot to No. 2 in the latest Baseball America updated top 100 rankings.
In the publication's June update to its top 100, published yesterday, the Reds' Elly De La Cruz, just called up to the majors, is No. 1 and Holliday is No. 2. He is ranked No. 3 in the most recently updated MLBPipeline.com ratings.
Low Single-A Delmarva catcher Samuel Basallo, age 18 from the Domincan Republic, cracked the BA top 100 at No. 81 on that June listing. That makes Basallo the first international signee under the front office of Mike Elias to crack a top 100.
Signed for a bonus of $1.3 million in January of 2021, Basallo was ranked No. 1 by MASNSports.com in our March rankings of the top O's young international players. Click here to review that article and here for another on Basallo.
Also on the latest BA top 100, Colton Cowser rises to No. 16 up from No. 33 in their May ranking. Grayson Rodriguez falls from No. 4 to No. 17. Jordan Westburg is now No. 46 with Joey Ortiz No. 75, DL Hall No. 80, Basallo at No. 81 and Heston Kjerstad at No. 84, up from No. 97 on the BA May ranking.
Trying to avoid the sweep: The Orioles didn't score until the ninth inning in last night's 10-2 loss at Milwaukee. They need a win today to avoid being swept by any team for the first time this year.
The Orioles, who were held without an extra-base hit, have now scored three runs or fewer, nine times in the last 12 games.
They are now 8-3 in road series and 20-12 in road games in 2023.