Holliday on Orioles roster bid: 'I'm as ready as I can be'

February 17th, 2024

SARASOTA, Fla. -- might be ready for the Majors by the time Spring Training wraps up in five weeks.

Orioles general manager Mike Elias has stated his belief that Holliday is close, sharing this offseason that there’s a “very strong possibility” MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect breaks camp with the big league team this year. The 20-year-old’s teammates have all raved about his skills and maturity.

Does Holliday feel he’s ready to soon make his MLB debut?

“Yeah, absolutely,” Holliday said Saturday morning at the Ed Smith Stadium complex. “I’m as ready as I can be, I think.”

Holliday won’t be handed a job this spring. He’ll need to go out and prove that he’s as ready as he says he is. But it’s much different from last year, when he experienced his first big league camp as a 19-year-old who didn’t have a legitimate chance at cracking Baltimore’s roster.

This time around, Holliday has a full Minor League season under his belt -- one in which he climbed four levels, going from Single-A Delmarva (14 games) to High-A Aberdeen (57) to Double-A Bowie (36) to Triple-A Norfolk (18).

“It’s a little bit more exciting, right?” Holliday said of this spring. “I mean, it’s pretty neat to be in this position. Excited to be in this position. Obviously, to make the big leagues out of camp would be pretty awesome. It’s encouraging and exciting.”

Holliday has played only 145 Minor League games, but Major League Baseball is also in his blood, as he’s the son of former All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday. The youngster also put up lofty numbers last year, finishing with a .323/.442/.499 slash line, 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers and 75 RBIs in 125 games.

“He comes in and works, and I mean, he’s an amazing ballplayer and one of the best young kids I’ve seen play,” said left-hander Cade Povich, the Orioles’ No. 10 prospect who spent time with Holliday at Bowie, Norfolk and the past two Spring Trainings. “It’s great to have him on our side.”

Last year, Holliday played mostly shortstop (his natural position), appearing there in 98 games. But he also got 20 starts at second base, where Elias said the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick would be spending “a lot” of time this spring.

The Orioles would like to have a left-handed-hitting option at second after losing Adam Frazier in free agency, and Holliday could slide into that spot quite nicely.

During the offseason -- while at his massive home training complex in Stillwater, Okla. -- Holliday mixed in drills at second base. His goal is to be athletic at the position, and he believes it “will all come naturally” with more reps at the spot.

And if the O’s want Holliday to play a good bit of second at the big league level …

“Then I’ll be ready,” Holliday said.

Early in camp, Holliday has received advice from older teammates. The consensus has been that he can only focus on his individual work while trying to make the team.

Grayson Rodriguez was in a similar position during last year’s Spring Training. The 24-year-old right-hander didn’t break camp with the Orioles, but he made his MLB debut in the sixth game of the 2023 season.

Rodriguez believes Holliday should block out any “outside noise.” Rodriguez also doesn’t believe Holliday will have any trouble doing so.

“The maturity is the big thing that stands out. He walks into the clubhouse like an older guy,” Rodriguez said. “His presence, there’s really nothing young about him. And then everything on the field, obviously, he lives up to the hype. He definitely stands out every day.”

Holliday could get an opportunity to show that on a larger stage during Spring Breakout, the new MLB prospect showcase that will occur March 14-17. The Orioles’ prospect team will be facing one assembled by the Pirates at LECOM Park in Bradenton on March 14, and Holliday may be included in the O’s lineup.

If so, an exciting matchup could occur: Holliday (the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick) vs. Pittsburgh right-hander Paul Skenes (No. 1 overall in ‘23), the former LSU pitcher who is MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 overall prospect.

“Getting to watch the College World Series unfold last year and all that he did,” Holliday said, “it would be pretty cool to be able to face him as like a No. 1 pick vs. No. 1 pick thing.”

Whether it’s on the back fields, in Grapefruit League games or at Spring Breakout, Holliday’s mindset will never change this spring.

His eyes are on the prize: a roster spot for Opening Day on March 28 at Camden Yards.

“Just trying to take it day by day,” Holliday said. “Enjoy these guys and enjoy getting better.”