Holliday opens Triple-A season with leadoff homer, flirts with cycle

March 30th, 2024

That's No. 1 for No. 1.

served notice his torrid Spring Training with the Orioles was no mirage. MLB's top overall prospect needed just four pitches to make an impact, leading off the bottom of the first inning with a 103 mph homer that ignited an offensive onslaught.

But he didn't stop there.

Playing in just his 19th Triple-A contest, Holliday fell a triple shy of the cycle and drove in four runs to power Norfolk to a 12-8 win over Durham on Friday night at Harbor Park. A loaded Tides lineup -- featuring Top 100 prospects Coby Mayo (No. 30) and Heston Kjerstad (No. 32) plus No. 7 O's prospect Connor Norby -- pounded out 17 hits.

But like he's done so often since his professional debut less than two years ago, Holliday led the way.

The Oklahoma native, who went deep 12 times last year, turned on an up-and-in heater from Bulls left-hander and Rays No. 9 prospect Mason Montgomery in the opening frame, sending it over the right-center-field fence for a 403-foot jack. It was the first time the lefty-swinging shortstop has gone deep against a lefty in his professional career, spanning 541 at-bats.

Holliday lofted a sacrifce fly in the second, lined a two-run single in his third plate appearance and doubled to right in the seventh. Three of his at-bats resulted in exit velocities in excess of 100 mph.

There was some thought that Holliday might begin the season in Baltimore, despite being just 20 years old and having 18 games of Triple-A experience under his belt. The son of former National League All-Star Matt Holliday slashed .311/.354/.600 with seven extra-base hits, six RBIs and six runs scored in 15 Grapefruit League games.

Through his first two pro seasons entering Friday's opener, Holliday is a .320 hitter with a .939 OPS, 57 extra-base hits and 126 walks in 145 games.

“He’s very, very close,” O's general manager Mike Elias said last week. “He’s very ahead of schedule. He’s done remarkably well. We couldn’t be more excited about his future. But you’re talking about the development of a player who has the opportunity to be one of the better, if not best, players in the league.”

The top four batters in Norfolk's lineup -- Holliday, Norby, Kjerstad and Mayo -- went a combined 11-for-21 with eight RBIs and four runs scored.