Jim Callis: “I will be absolutely surprised if Jackson Holliday is not a superstar"

For young Jackson Holliday, a lot was expected and a lot was delivered. The player the Orioles took No. 1 overall in the 2022 MLB Draft had a pretty solid 20-game pro debut.

It started with him tearing it up in the Rookie-level Florida Complex League for eight games and followed with 12 games at Single-A Delmarva where he certainly held his own.

Between the two levels at just age 18, Holliday showed a great batting eye and he walked 25 times with just 12 strikeouts. He ended the year ranked as the Orioles' No. 3 prospect behind Gunnar Henderson and Grayson Rodriguez, and in national top 100s, he is rated No. 13 by MLBPipeline.com and No. 38 by Baseball America.

In his first season after being a high school drafted player in 2019, Henderson played in 29 games in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League and batted .259/.331/.370 with a .701 OPS, 11 walks and 28 strikeouts. He had a 9.1 walk rate and 23.1 strikeout rate.

Holliday in eight FCL games batted .409/.576/.591 with a 1.167 OPS, 10 walks and two strikeouts. In the FCL, he had a 30.3 walk rate and 6.1 strikeout rate. Then in 12 games with the Shorebirds, he hit .238/.439/.333 with a .772 OPS, 15 walks to 10 strikeouts, producing a 26.3 walk rate and 17.5 strikeout rate.

So overall, between two teams, he hit .297/.489/.422 with a .911 OPS five doubles, a homer and nine RBIs. 

Holliday’s walk-to-strikeouts ratio was so impressive for such a young player, even one as touted as he is as the No. 1 draft pick. It sure seems to bode well for his future, said Jim Callis of MLBPipeline.com.

“It really does,” Callis said. “I don’t tend to look at debut stats too much, because it’s small sample sizes and guys are coming off layoffs. But you’d rather see guys do well than not do well. And, to me, probably the most important numbers are how he controls the strike zone at a young age.

“You could say in the Complex League, walks are not always necessarily indicative of or perfectly correlated with plate discipline because it could be guys are pitching around a big name like Jackson Holliday. Younger pitchers trying to pitch around him don’t always have as much finesse as others and when they try to pitch him around they are eight inches off the plate.

“I was talking to Heston Kjerstad on media day in the (Arizona) Fall League and he was talking about how good Jackson Holliday was. Just from what he had heard. But yeah, best high school bat in the draft. I thought he had the best combination of hitting ability and tools in the high school crop. This guy is going to be really, really good.”

Baseball America and MLBPipeline.com rate his tools very similarly both with 60 hit tool grades, 55 for power, 60 for running and 55 for fielding. His arm gets a 55 grade from MLB Pipeline and a 60 from Baseball America.

“I have always liked Gunnar Henderson,” said Callis of the player currently ranked No. 1 by Baseball America and No. 2 by MLBPipeline.com. “I mean, I didn’t think he would arguably rank as the best player in the minors. But he has become a great, great prospect and got to the big leagues and played well. But at the same stage of their careers, Jackson Holliday is better than Gunnar Henderson. So, if that continues, think how exciting that would be. Gunnar didn’t really manage the strike zone like that until this year.

“I will be absolutely surprised if Jackson Holliday is not a superstar. Much like we said about Adley Rutschman. Apples and oranges, college and high school. But his tools, his skills, his instincts growing up around the game. I think I mentioned to you on draft day, Jackson Holliday, all five tools got better this spring. That does not happen very often.

“It would not shock me if he was in the big leagues in 2024. Like I think he could just tear up the minors this year and get there in 2024.”

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