BOWIE, Md. - Manny Machado played at Double-A Bowie at age 19 in 2012 and pitcher Dylan Bundy was 19 when he pitched for Bowie that same year. Now Jackson Holliday becomes the next O’s prospect to ascend to Bowie before his 20th birthday.
It’s been quite a run of now nearly 365 days for the kid. Drafted No. 1 overall by the Orioles on July 17, 2022, he is still a few days removed from that one-year anniversary. He started this season playing at Low Single-A Delmarva and moved to High-A Aberdeen playing his first game there on April 25. On July 8, he played in the All-Star Futures Game in Seattle representing the Orioles. And now, six days later he played his first game in the Double-A Eastern League.
Last night in his Baysox debut, Holliday went 2-for-5 with singles in the second and ninth innings.
Bowie lost 8-6, but left fielder John Rhodes hit three solo homers and has eight on the year after producing his first career multi-homer game. Drafted in round three from Kentucky in 2021, Rhodes has a .251 average and .796 OPS in 62 Baysox games. His OPS was .985 in June. This was the seventh three-homer game in Bowie team history.
Holliday began the year ranked No. 12 via MLBPipeline.com and is now No. 1 in that top 100 ranking as baseball’s top prospect. He began the year at No. 15 via Baseball America and is now No. 2 on that list. Cincinnati’s Elly De La Cruz will soon graduate from those rankings, where he is No. 1 and Holliday will move to No. 1 there too.
Yep, quite a year for the son of seven-time MLB All-Star Matt Holliday.
But even after batting .332/.465/.521/.986 in 72 games between Low Single-A Delmarva and High-A Aberdeen with 17 doubles, six triples, seven homers and 51 RBIs, Holliday is not immune to struggles in a batter’s box.
And he had some at times in June with Aberdeen. He hit .226 with a .702 OPS for the IronBirds. Over the years, numerous O’s highly rated prospects have cited struggles they had in the minors and learning to get through them as vital to their overall player development.
Holliday can now relate to them.
“Definitely helpful,” Holliday said of his own tougher times in June. “I think failure is definitely important, it’s very important. Yeah, there were some games when I was hitting the ball hard, but right at people. And some days where I couldn’t even touch the ball. So, to overcome that and come through it is very important. Very valuable.
“I think I’ve gotten better at (dealing with) it. Just taking it at-bat to at-bat versus game-to-game was very helpful. Sometimes I struck out twice to start the game and ended the game with three hits. That is something I am going to take in and continue to work on.”
When your Dad is a former All-Star and Silver Slugger, being able to call on that resource is not bad either.
“I can call my Dad and talk with him through things. Not letting little things on the field dictate that. If I watch film, it’s the exact same swing. Just trying to see little things and overcome things and be able to challenge myself in the cages has been helpful.
“I think he’s very proud. It’s neat that he gets to watch this all unfold. He texted me the other day ‘This looks really fun. I wish I still could be doing that.’ That’s neat for me. Sometimes you get tired and I just think about that. He got to play for so long and still misses it so much. That was really cool for me.”
Holliday sure worked through his ups and downs in June to go 5-for-5 and 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in his last two Aberdeen games, raising his batting average there by about 20 points.
Then he enjoyed his time at the Futures Game after flight delays made getting there rough. But upon arrival, he shared the O’s stage in Seattle with Triple-A Norfolk’s Heston Kjerstad.
“I got to spend a lot of time with him during spring training. We hung out quite often. Went to dinner. He’s very, very talented. This is kind of his first full season, because he’s had some injury and health things. He’s so talented. I watched him play in college. It’s really neat to see what he is doing and I’m very excited for him.”
Now he is excited to see the youth movement in Baltimore with Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser the latest top 100 prospects to arrive. Holliday even said ‘I wouldn’t put it past myself at this point’ of his own chances to make it to Baltimore this year.
“I’m very excited. It is really neat to see all the guys impacting the big league team at such a young age. Being able to hang out with them in the spring and do stuff off the field, it’s really neat to see those guys succeed,” he said.
Holliday believes some of his own biggest gains this year have come in the ability to drive the ball more consistently. A few O’s coaches visited him in Oklahoma last winter to work on producing more consistent launch angles. He’s put that work to good use this season.
“I think when I am making contact and hitting the ball hard, it’s at the right launch angle where I can get hits. So being to kind of control that, obviously I am not the strongest guy so I can't hit it straight up in the air and hope it goes over the fence. So being able to control where I hit the ball and whenever I do, I am hitting it hard. Compared to last year it’s been a lot better.”
The stats are there to prove it for Holliday, who less than one year from his draft day, made his Double-A debut last night in Bowie.
And in Baltimore: The Orioles beat Miami 5-2 at Oriole Park to extend their win streak to six and move within 1.5 games of Tampa Bay, which got rained out.
The Orioles have outscored their opponents 49-11 during their win streak.
Right-hander Dean Kremer gave up just one run over six innings and improved to 10-4 on the year. The O's starting rotation has produced six straight quality starts with an ERA of 1.64.
Over their last 28 games, the O's have 17 quality starts and a rotation ERA of 3.59.