For the third time in club history tonight the Orioles had the overall No. 1 selection in the MLB Draft. And after taking Ben McDonald in 1989 and Adley Rutschman 30 years later, the O’s went into the high school ranks tonight to select shortstop Jackson Holliday from Stillwater (Okla.) High School.
He is the first high school player the O’s selected with their top pick since pitcher Grayson Rodriguez in 2018, and first high school position player they spent their top pick on since Manny Machado was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2010 draft.
As it turns out, Holliday, 18, found out he would be an Oriole about the same time the rest of us did.
“I kind of found out as they were saying it,” he told O’s reporters on a team Zoom call. “That was kind of cool. My dad didn’t really tell me. He was on the phone and then he’s like ‘All right, just going to find out.’ That was very, very neat and something I’ll never forget. I didn’t know it was a possibility, to be honest, going into the high school season. I just wanted to help my team and hopefully put myself into a good position heading into today.”
Holliday said his dad, former big leaguer Matt Holliday, was on the phone with his representative, Scott Boras.
“He knew about 30 seconds before the pick was made," he said. "He was kind of freaking out, it was really funny. He said ‘What do we want to do?’ I said 'I don’t know, I don’t know how to handle this.’ He was excited and it was kind of funny to watch.
“It’s hard to explain what it means. It’s like a video game. Every video game you play, you are the first pick, so that’s what it felt like. And it’s something I’ll never forget and it’s a true honor.”
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 for hits, surpassing the previous record of 88 set by J.T. Realmuto in 2010. Holliday was named the Gatorade Oklahoma Baseball Player of the Year and Baseball America's High School Player of the Year. MLB.com rated him as the No. 2 overall draft prospect, while Baseball America had him at No. 3.
Holliday is the son of seven-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday. The elder Holliday played 15 seasons for the Colorado Rockies, St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics and New York Yankees.
“The last year that he played (in 2018) I was 14 years old," Jackson Holliday said. "I remember being in the clubhouse ever since he got to St. Louis (in 2009), and I feel like it’s definitely an advantage. I’ve gotten to see what it takes to get to the major leagues and how players, even when they are at the top of their game, how hard they still worked to maintain it. It’s an advantage I was able to use for the good”
He said he learned how well his dad handled failure.
“That is something that I want to be really, really good at, and what you need to be good at when you are getting into this lifestyle," he said. "Just turning the page, is something he has said. Find a way to win and always play hard, that is what he took pride in.”
O’s executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said that Holliday was probably not on the O’s radar to be the 1/1 pick last winter, but that he made physical gains and that his “performance shot through the roof.” What did Holliday do this season to step up his game?
“We just tried to grow steadily,” he said. “I was given the opportunity to kind of do online school and I would try to take advantage of everything I could to hopefully be in this position. So me and my dad were able to train and work out and hit almost every single day. It grew me as a whole player, and I’m someone that kind of likes to be good at everything. I don’t want to have a weakness. Trying to grow myself as a player and person was something that was very important, and it worked. I wouldn’t be in this spot without my dad.”
Holliday is a lefty batter and righty thrower who made a commitment to Oklahoma State. where he would play college baseball for his uncle. But now that is unlikely, and he is expected to sign with the Orioles.
"He was very excited tonight and one of the first people I saw after. I think he'll be fine," Holliday said of his Uncle Josh.
“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.”
Does Holliday have much knowledge of the Orioles?
“Just kind of how historic the organization is," he said. "When my dad was playing for the Yankees I used to go and shag BP and kind of be in the atmosphere. It is something I still remember, and excited to get back to that point. They are a great organization, headed in the right direction, and I am excited to be a part of it. I couldn’t be more excited to be in the organization.”
Elias called it a big day and night for the Orioles as they make the No. 1 selection on the same day their major league team ended the first half with a .500 record.
“I do think it’s a pretty significant mile marker for us to be making this pick on a night when our group has finished with a .500 record," Elias said. "That’s a step, and now we are adding what is going to be a big new wave to the bottom of what is an excellent farm system. … I think this Orioles organization is in the healthiest spot it’s been in in a very long time and just got a lot healthier. I think this is a really nice night for us to have things going well at the major and minor league level, and in the scouting department at the same time, on all the same night,” said Elias.
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