O's take Jackson Holliday, son of Matt, with No. 1 pick

July 18th, 2022

Three years after making arguably the most important selection in their Draft history, the Orioles -- in a far different place than they were in June 2019 -- hope they came to an equally franchise-altering decision on Sunday night. 

Baltimore took shortstop Jackson Holliday out of Stillwater (Okla.) High School with the first overall pick in the 2022 Draft, adding what they believe is a “potential star” to an organization that has been marked by an influx of young talent in recent years. Holliday, son of former MLB star Matt, became the third first overall pick in O’s history, joining Adley Rutschman (2019) and Ben McDonald (1989) -- but coming from a far different background.

"I want to be the best player, and I want to honor the Orioles for selecting me,” Holliday said. “I'm going to work as hard as I can to to make it to the Major Leagues and have a great career for them and for their fans. I'm very excited. And I always compete."

Holliday, ranked the No. 2 Draft prospect by MLB Pipeline and seen as one of the best all-around players of the crop, is the first high school position player the Orioles have taken with their top selection since Manny Machado went third overall in 2010, and the first when including pitchers since Grayson Rodriguez, now the top pitching prospect in baseball, was taken in 2018. Both were selected before executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias was hired.

“It's a gigantic decision and moment for the Orioles franchise,” said Mike Elias. “ … I am very proud of and happy with the result that we got today.

“The upside for him is enormous,” Elias added. “I mean, it's a potential star playing shortstop, batting in the middle of the order, doing so for a very long time. In some regard, I don't know that the ceiling gets much higher than somebody with that profile.”

Baseball is in the blood for Holliday, whose father was a seven-time All-Star slugger during a 15-year MLB career with the Rockies, A’s, Cardinals and Yankees. But the family baseball connection doesn’t stop there -- Jackson’s grandfather, Tom, coached Oklahoma State baseball for 26 years. And Jackson’s uncle, Josh, is now head coach of the Cowboys, whom Jackson is committed to play for if he doesn’t turn pro -- something he’s largely expected to do.

“He was very excited tonight,” Jackson smiled.

It was Matt who knew first that Jackson was going to be selected first overall, receiving a call from his agent, Scott Boras, and then struggling to remain silent on the couch back home in Stillwater. Jackson found out as Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement on stage in Los Angeles.

“He was kind of freaking out,” Jackson laughed of his father. “ … It's hard to explain what it means. It's like a video game, honestly. Every video game you play, you're the first pick. That’s kind of what it felt like, and it's something that I’ll never forget. It's a true honor.”

There's one more Holliday in the pipeline. Jackson’s younger brother, Ethan, is ranked as one of the top prep players in the nation for the Class of 2025, and the two played on the same team for the first time last year, with Jackson hitting second in the lineup and playing shortstop for Stillwater, and Ethan batting third and playing third base. They even hit back-to-back homers in one game.

Jackson and outfielder Druw Jones -- another prospect also on the O’s big board and son of former Braves star Andruw -- are the first sons of big leaguers to be taken Nos. 1 and 2 overall in a single Draft. Baltimore was also considering outfield prospect Elijah Green, son of former Ravens tight end Eric Green.

Holliday joins Ken Griffey Jr. as the only son of a big leaguer taken first overall.

“As a kid, he never made it noticeable of how good or how bad his game was,” Jackson said of Matt, recalling shagging balls at Camden Yards when his father played for the Yankees. “That's something that I've taken from him, is how well he handles failure.

“I've gotten to see what it takes to get to the Major Leagues,” Holliday added, “and how players -- even when they're at the top of their game -- how hard they still work to maintain it.”

What the Orioles believe they have drafted in Jackson is a revamped, and retooled player -- five tools, to be specific.

Holliday was tremendous in his senior year of high school, taking his already impressive production at the plate to a higher level, hitting .685/.749/1.392 and setting a national record with 89 hits -- a mark previously held by current Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto. He prides himself on being an all-around talent, winning two Rawlings High School Gold Glove Awards.

The 6-foot-1, 175-pound shortstop was named the Gatorade High School Player of the Year for Oklahoma, as well as Baseball America’s National High School Player of the Year. MLB Pipeline grades his speed as plus, and his arm as solid-to-plus. He’s got good power from the left side of the plate to go along with an advanced approach in the box.

Holliday’s success this past year was what skyrocketed him up the Draft boards, not thought to be as high a pick as he turned out as recently as summer 2021. But tools became refined, and the Orioles took notice.

“It was like there was a fire alarm in the scouting industry,” Elias said, “and we certainly poured in there very heavily from that point forward.”

Holliday sees himself long-term as a shortstop. The Orioles do, too, even with fellow top prospects Gunnar Henderson and Jordan Westburg in the system. They believe in Holliday’s speed -- on the bases and how it suits him positionally -- and that talent complements talent.

“When I was in Houston, we took Alex Bregman the year that Carlos Correa debuted,” Elias said. “We never worried about it.”

Possibly most impactful about Holliday’s drafting is that it comes against the backdrop of the Orioles entering the All-Star break with a .500 record and an AL Wild Card position within striking distance, something Elias called “a significant mile marker.” The 2022 O’s are appearing to turn a corner, with Rutschman soon to be joined in the Majors by others from their top-rated farm system.

Holliday -- and three more picks on Day 1 of the Draft -- is simply another cause for the wave of excitement building in Baltimore.

“This Orioles organization is in the healthiest spot it's been in in a very long time,” Elias said. “And it just got a lot healthier 20 minutes ago.”