At a time when the Orioles farm system gets major props from outlets throughout the sport, more encouraging news came this week. Baltimore already is ranked by several outlets as having the No. 1 farm system in baseball and this follows a 2022 season when both Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson were ranked as the No. 1 prospect in baseball and Grayson Rodriguez was ranked as the No. 1 pitcher.
In this article this week, which summarized a podcast, MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis predicted that O’s infield prospect Jackson Holliday would be ranked as their No. 1 prospect in the top 100 by the end of the 2023 season. That would give the O’s three No. 1 players over a two-year period.
The podcast/article was rather promising about the Orioles as both Callis and fellow analyst Jonathan Mayo predicted that Henderson would be voted the 2023 American League Rookie of the Year.
Saying Henderson is “everything he was cracked up to be,” Callis adds he would vote Henderson the No. 1 prospect right now and currently he ranks No. 2 on the MLBPipeline.com board behind Mets catcher Francisco Alvarez.
In that same article, Callis also projected Holliday to be the MLBPipeline.com Hitter of the Year for 2023 as Henderson was for the outlet last season.
“I think he’s going to hit for average, hit for power, (play) really good shortstop. It’ll be fun to figure out who’s playing where in that Orioles infield when he’s ready in a couple of years,” said Callis.
Callis being so high on Holliday should not come as much of a surprise to readers here based on his comments when I interviewed him on the youngster about two months ago.
In the 2022 year, between the rookie-level Florida Complex League and low-A Delmarva, Holliday batted .297/.489/.422 with a .911 OPS, five doubles, a homer and nine RBIs. He walked 25 times and fanned just 12. He produced a 30.3 walk rate in the FCL and 26.3 with the Shorebirds.
Holliday’s walk-to-strikeouts ratio were so impressive for such a young player, even one as touted as he is as a No. 1 overall draft pick. It sure seems to bode well for his future, said Callis in our earlier interview.
“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.”
Callis was not done raving about Holliday in the interview and his thoughts on his MLB future.
“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.”
As it relates to Henderson, the Orioles have not had a Rookie of the Year winner since pitcher Gregg Olson in 1989. Although Trey Mancini finished third in 2017 and Rutschman second in 2022.