BOWIE, Md. – On Monday, 19-year-old Jackson Holliday will celebrate the one-year anniversary of being selected by the Orioles with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. He hoped to make it as far as Double-A Bowie during this his first full season in pro baseball.
He’s done it. The news was out on Sunday and tonight Holliday, after beginning this year playing 14 games with Low Single-A Delmarva and then moving on to High-A Aberdeen for 57, will debut at Bowie. He’s batting second and playing shortstop against Akron tonight, hitting after leadoff batter Billy Cook and before Jud Fabian.
The great 2023 season for Holliday, who has become the No. 1 ranked prospect via MLBPipeline.com and No. 2 on the Baseball America list this year and who also recently played in the All-Star Futures Games, continues tonight as he arrives at the Double-A level maybe even faster than he figured on.
But a goal is achieved for him as he arrives at Double-A.
“Absolutely,” he said this afternoon in the Baysox dugout. “I came into spring training as this was my goal for the end of the year. I’ve reached it so now there are new goals. So, who knows what can happen but I’m excited to be here. Time to keep playing and enjoying it.”
What new goals now?
“I don’t know. I want to have as good a second half as the first half. Help this team win as much as possible and contribute offensively as well as defensively.”
And Holliday has had a fantastic season on the stat sheet.
In 71 games between the Shorebirds and IronBirds, he batted .331/.466/.523/.989 with 17 doubles, six triples, seven homers and 51 RBIs. He controlled the strike zone very well with 64 walks to 67 strikeouts and scored 67 runs with 20 stolen bases.
He had an OPS of 1.183 with Delmarva and .940 with a wRC+ of 162 for Aberdeen.
“I try to impact the game in every aspect,” Holliday said. “But I think controlling the strikezone (has been big for me) and being able to hit the barrel is something I take pride in.”
When Holliday moved to Aberdeen he got off to a fast start, unlike other top prospects there such as Gunnar Henderson, who struggled initially. So how might Holliday play initially at the Double-A level?
Manager Kyle Moore said it sure should be a sizable challenge for the player who preseason was ranked No. 12 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 15 by Baseball America.
“A lot of them,” Moore said of challenges Holliday will face with Bowie. “I think Double-A baseball is a totally different animal. He’s never seen the quality of offspeed stuff he’s about to see. He’s never seen the quality of bullpen arm he’s about to see and we are about to play Akron, who constructs their roster to win and their bullpens to win. They have a phenomenal pitching department. It will be a giant challenge for Jackson.
“I think it’s going to be fun to watch him compete versus those guys. Biggest challenge is going to be offspeed stuff, high-end octane out of the bullpen and guys that can land two and three different pitches if they are a starter. He’s never seen that before.”
Moore noted there will be opponents that have played six and seven more years than Holliday has.
“This kid hasn’t played a whole bunch of baseball, yet he’s outperformed every league he’s ever played in. That’s different,” he said.
Holliday admitted he’s at Double-A even quicker than he thought.
“Yeah a little bit. I was trying to play well and if things happen, thing happen. But trying to give the organization no reason to keep me down. Just move up as fast as possible,” he said.
Like he moved up to become the No. 1 ranked MLBPipeline prospect and is No. 2 via Baseball America. But Cincinnati’s Elly De La Cruz will graduate very soon meaning Holliday will move up to No. 1 there too.
“Personally, nothing really changes,” Holliday said about being ranked No. 1. “We are still all in the minor leagues and our goal is to make the big leagues. It’s really cool to share that with some of the guys in the organization like Gunnar (Henderson) and Adley (Rutschman). It’s pretty neat to be the No. 1 prospect."
And his year has been adventurous. This is his third affiliate, all within Maryland state lines, plus that trip to the Futures Game. Plus moving up prospects lists and being a marked man by both pitchers and for reporters.
“It’s really neat. Been driving all over the place but to see different parts of Maryland and that is neat and to be able to meet lots of different guys and play with different players is always fun. To create new friends is something I enjoy. Been a lot of fun.
“I moved into another apartment today. That was fun, No. 3 this year. Going to start keeping track. It’s honestly all I could have expected. It’s been great,” he said.
So Holliday has been on the move a lot this year and he is not ruling out even a move to Baltimore to join the Orioles, although he knows others would need to decide that and it seems improbable.
“I don’t know what’s possible and what’s not possible. That would be quite something. But I wouldn’t put it past myself at this point. Who knows," he said.