Is the 16-year-old brother of MLB's No. 1 prospect better than him?

October 27th, 2023

Boy have I lucked out.

I’m in Arizona for Fall League coverage. And now the World Series is coming here. The baseball stars have aligned. I can continue to watch the best prospects in the game in the AFL and also enjoy watching the prospects and rookies (Corbin Carroll and Evan Carter, I’m looking at you) on baseball’s biggest stage. But that doesn’t mean I won’t take time out to answer your questions in this week’s Inbox!

I realize Jackson Holliday looks like a future superstar, but I am wondering how his younger brother Ethan (Class of 2025) compares to him? -- @KyleWeatherly6

In many ways, the Holliday boys are very different players. The similarities are that both are infielders and both hit left-handed. Ethan is a third baseman while Jackson plays up the middle. They both have sported a pretty serious blond flow.

That might be it. Ethan is far ahead of where Jackson was at a similar time as a high schooler. After an uneven summer before his senior year, Jackson was thought more of as a potential first rounder. It wasn’t until his senior season that he jumped to the top of the Draft. But Ethan is generally considered to already be the top prospect in the Class of 2025. They are different players. Ethan has much more power than his older brother (not that Jackson won’t have plenty of pop). He might have an offensive profile closer to his dad, who hit 314 big league home runs, than Jackson. Jackson has more speed and every chance to stay up the middle at a premium position.

Who will be the better big leaguer? It should be a fun debate. But both have the chance to better than their dad, who was pretty darn good in his day. But isn’t that what every parent hopes for?

Has the AFL's rise to prominence hurt the quality and quantity of Minor Leaguers playing winter leagues? -- @ballsandgutters

The Arizona Fall League began back in 1992, so it’s not like it’s been a sudden “rise to prominence.” But I do think that it’s creation, and its purpose, was at least in part to give teams and player development departments an alternative to sending players to winter ball in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela or Puerto Rico.

This is not to take anything away from how incredible the winter leagues are. Years ago, I got to cover a Caribbean Series and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my career. But here’s the thing about the winter leagues: It’s all about winning. That makes for an incredible atmosphere and yes, a great place for prospects to learn. But it also means that teams don’t have control over how things go.

In the AFL, if you send someone to get a certain amount of innings, or to work at a new position, then they will do exactly that. It’s designed to be a controlled environment for development. Those who run winter league teams need to win, now. It replicates the big leagues in terms of that, but it also means that while there might be some understanding of how to use a player, there’s less guarantee it will go that way. So that’s a big reason why, I think, teams don’t send prospects to winter ball as much, and having the AFL as a more controllable place to send them certainly helps.

Which players stats in the AFL has caught your attention and the prospects who are producing those stats? -- @StevieDAles97

I love a good game of small sample size theater. We always bring up the caveat that we should be careful not to put too much weight on any performances in the Fall League. It’s a hitting-friendly league, it’s a relatively small amount of innings or at-bats. You’ve heard it all. But this did make me want to pick out a few stats that interested me.

The Angels’ Davis Daniel has a .113 batting average against. Six hits in 16 innings (He also has a 0.63 WHIP, 1.69 ERA and 22 K’s). He’s always been a feel for pitching over pure stuff guy, one who has struggled with injuries. (That’s why he’s in the AFL.) At the upper levels, he’s been hit a bit when healthy, so to see him this dominant has opened some eyes.

James Triantos leads the AFL with 47 total bases. He’s tied for second with 11 extra-base hits. The Cubs prospect has always been able to hit and make a ton of contact. But there have been questions about the impact. The 11 XBH, including three homers, should be taken with the usual AFL grain of salt, but it bodes well as he hits the upper levels full-time in 2024.

Last one. A.J. Vukovich somehow has 12 steals to lead the Fall League. Maybe this shouldn’t surprise me since he stole 36 bases in 2022 and was a 20-20 guy this year in Double-A. But the D-backs prospect is an average runner, but he clearly has baserunning savvy and knows how to use the rules to his advantage. But the fact that he has more steals than, say Minor League stolen base co-champion Victor Scott (10 SB), is a lot of fun.

I have a question regarding prospect Marcelo Mayer of the Boston Red Sox. It seems multiple sources and analyzers have decreased their love for Marcelo. I’m wondering how you guys feel and if you are still; as high on him as before. You have him at  No. 11, which is great, but I honestly thought he could crack top 5 or so this year. Seems his value is dropping? (if you can believe No. 11 is a drop) -- Dom P.

We answered Dom’s question on this week’s MLB Pipeline Podcast, so be sure to give it a listen. But Jim Callis and I agreed that Mayer’s “drop” had more to do with players moving past him because of big years and the addition of some ridiculous elite Draft talent than it did an industry souring on Mayer.

Yes, he didn’t hit well when he got to Double-A. But he also wasn’t 100 percent. So I know I’m giving him a mulligan of sorts. I think sometimes because so many young guys are moving so fast (like Jackson Holliday), that if a guy struggles for a second when moving to a new level, it’s easy to dismiss him a bit. But Mayer was only 20 for all of 2023 and he reached Double-A. By many standards, he’s ahead of the curve. So I don’t think his value is dropping at all. I expect him to figure out Double-A in 2024 and keep his upward trajectory.