It doesn’t take long when interviewing young O’s shortstop prospect Jackson Holliday to realize this young man is mature beyond his years. He turned 19 on Dec. 4. He may look younger than 19 but he handles himself as an older, more experienced player might.
And to say the least the player the Orioles selected No. 1 overall in the 2022 draft is trending up. And trending up big.
The son of seven-time big league All-Star Matt Holliday, Jackson became the third No. 1 overall O’s MLB Draft pick joining Ben McDonald in 1989 and Adley Rutschman in 2019 last July.
Then he went out and in yes, a small sample of 20 pro games, lived up to the hype.
He hit .297/.489/.422/.911 with five doubles, a homer and nine RBIs. And a stunning walk rate which was 30.3 in the rookie-level Florida Complex League and 26.3 with low-A Delmarva. For the 20 games, he walked 25 times with just 12 strikeouts. He played his first FCL game on Aug. 10 and first for the Shorebirds on Aug. 25.
The plate discipline skills were to say the least very strong for someone so young and bode well for what seems like a very bright future.
“I’d say just kind of growing up in the game (has helped me in that area),” Holliday told me during a recent Zoom interview. “That is something that has helped me throughout everything with my baseball ability. Just growing up in the game. Watching lots of baseball and watching plenty of good hitters. You get yourself out if you swing at balls, so that is something that I really tried to work on in high school. When I swung I really wanted to put the ball in play and if I knew it wasn’t a strike, I didn’t want to get myself out. I’d rather strikeout looking than swinging 100 percent of the time. So, I trust my eye and I know I have a good understanding of the zone.”
It takes some hitters a long time to be able to rapidly recognize one pitch from another. Holliday is ahead of the curve here easily and also credits the Orioles organization for the information they provide on opponent pitchers – even at the lowest levels of the farm.
“Yeah, we have a really good scouting report before each game, so you really know what the pitch shape is and where it needs to start for it to be in the zone and where it needs to start to be a ball. That is something that I pay attention a lot to. Because I’ve never seen these guys before. So, to know their release points and how their ball moves before the game even starts has been beneficial,” said Holliday, whose younger brother Ethan could be among the top picks in the 2025 draft.
Holliday agreed with an assessment that elite major league players often show a combination of great skills but also smarts too.
“For sure,” he said. “You have to pay attention to the small details. They are very important. That is something I try to take pride in, doing the little things right. That usually leads to big things.”
Holliday said one area of the game that he has not been completely exposed to is the data and technology elements. This is an area where he will surely become more well-versed playing in Birdland.
“I enjoy all the stuff I got introduced to,” he said. “I feel like it’s definitely helped my game and I look forward to it this year. And getting to be around some guys that really know what they’re doing.”
He said some of the scouting reports he got even told him which counts opponent pitchers throw certain pitches. It was extensive and all minor leaguers get the information.
“Yeah. The whole organization,” he added.
Represented by Scott Boras, Holliday was the first O’s high school position player selected their top pick since Manny Machado was No. 3 overall in the 2010 draft.
After his more than solid debut pro year, he went into last winter still looking to get better.
“I always want to get stronger, more athletic, faster. So, I’ve been working out about six days a week and doing speed stuff three times a week. Trying to get stronger to impact the game a little bit more. The offensive side, being able to drive the ball all over the place and being able to steal bases and contribute that way. And to make plays that no one else makes and get the guy out at first.”
In this article recently, MLBPipeline.com senior writer Jim Callis raved about Holliday and predicted both that he could be the No. 1 ranked prospect at the end of 2023 and also that long-term he could have a better MLB career than current No. 1 prospect Gunnar Henderson, a player he likes very much.
Holliday was ranked No. 9 by Baseball Prospectus, No. 12 by MLBPipeline and No. 15 via Baseball America. I asked him how he handles all the praise and accolades he has been getting?
“I honestly just focus on the same things for me. Just getting better each day, being around my family and trying to be as present as possible. Just hanging out with them. I’m about to leave – first time I’ve been away from them, so trying to enjoy my family and get better each day and not worry about that. It’s really not in my control. But being in the best position I can be to be that No. 1 prospect. That would be pretty cool three years in a row. Pretty neat.
“The way I was raised I would say that is what shaped me to not feel any pressure when it comes to these things. Just kind of enjoy the process. Just give credit to my parents and how they raised me. That has made this a whole lot easier.”
Holliday is easily at home in a big league clubhouse. He said he went inside the clubhouse for almost every home game his dad played in 15 MLB seasons.
“We’ve been talking about relationships and I would say my dad was very good about making relationships in the clubhouse and being able to find things that guys where maybe he doesn’t have much in common with. And to get to know them. That is something I try to do. To make friends with everyone and find something that me and that person can bond over and get to know each other better.
“That is something I’ve learned from my dad and being in the clubhouse for a really long time. Is just be a good clubhouse guy and a leader. Someone they can trust on and off the field. Definitely the day in and day out grind that it takes to be on top of your game. You train all offseason and then try to stay strong during the season and maintain is what I am trying to do to push myself over the edge of guys I compete with,” Holliday said.
Baseball America and MLBPipeline both give Holliday plus tools across the board. BA rates his hit tool a 60 with 55 power and he gets 60 grades for running, arm and fielding. Via MLBP he gets a 60 hit tool with 55 power and 60 for running. He gets 55 grades for arm and fielding.
As he heads into his first full pro season, Holliday is not sure at which affiliate he will start but he has some thoughts on where he’d like to end up.
“I don’t know from the club (where I will start yet), but I’d like to play well and make it up to Double-A. I know Jordan Lawlar pretty well and I know he had a great first (full pro) season with the Diamondbacks. Made it up to Double-A and I’d like to accomplish that. Put myself in a great spot for the next year to make the big league team. That is my goal, to jump as many levels as possible and I’m looking forward to it.”
Click this link for the entire video interview with Holliday via the MASN Orioles YouTube page.
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