Holliday calls his shot, wallops 2nd leadoff homer in 4 games at Triple-A

April 3rd, 2024

felt good entering Triple-A Norfolk’s series against Charlotte on Tuesday.

It was a balmy 79 degrees at first pitch with the wind blowing out, and MLB’s No. 1 prospect had a fun batting practice at Truist Field, one of the best hitters' ballparks in the Minors. He had plenty of reason to be confident too, considering his strong Spring Training and opening weekend.

Three games after opening the season with a leadoff home run, the Orioles phenom called his shot before the Tides' 10-6 win over the Knights.

"I told our hitting coaches that I was going to try to hit a homer off the batter's eye," Holliday said, "and obviously that actually happened."

Facing Johan Dominguez (White Sox), Holliday spit on a high fastball and a curveball before getting a pitch he could do damage on. The righty threw a slider that broke right into the heart of the lower third of the zone, and Holliday pounced: 99.6 mph exit velocity and 414 feet to center.

"Usually if I'm going to try to hit a homer off the batter's eye, then I'm in a good enough position to be able to get a hit," the 20-year-old said. "But usually it doesn't happen, and so this is pretty cool."

Holliday isn't known primarily for his power -- or as someone who calls his shot often. But Tuesday's homer is another sign of him adjusting to his new leadoff role.

The top pick in the 2022 Draft hit his first homer of the year in Norfolk's very first AB of the season when he turned on an up-and-in fastball in a 2-1 count that also doubled as his first professional homer against a fellow lefty. Dating back to last season, each of his last three regular-season homers have been of the leadoff variety.

Batting atop the order is a new challenge for the Oklahoma native, who largely hit second last season between Single-A Delmarva, High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie before a late-season promotion to Norfolk. Even dating back to high school, he hit second all four years.

As a 19-year-old, Holliday slashed .333/.451/.517 at his first three stops before taking on Triple-A ball. Despite being more than seven years younger than the average player on the circuit, he hit .267/.396/.400 with the Tides and went 4-for-15 with a pair of walks in leadoff opportunities. Small sample sizes aside, he's off to a blazing start in 2024 with a double and two homers in four leadoff at-bats and is running a 1.070 OPS overall.

"It's been a bit of an adjustment, just knowing that most of my at-bats have been from batting second, but it's been fun," Holliday said. "I've been talking to [teammate] Connor Norby about it a little bit. He's led off for a while now, and he's hit a lot of leadoff homers and has had a really good Minor League career hitting leadoff. So just being able to talk to him a little bit about it and the experiences that he has and how pitchers like to attack to start the game. It's been very helpful to talk to him. Just taking it as a normal at-bat, and usually, you're going to get a fastball early."

Fittingly, Norby, Baltimore's sixth-ranked prospect -- who hit five leadoff homers last season -- went back-to-back with Holliday in the first to spot the Tides a 2-0 lead. And fellow Top 100 prospect Heston Kjerstad (BAL No. 4/MLB No. 31) added to the power display in the fifth and ninth with the first multihomer game of his pro career.