No. 1 vs. No. 2: MLB's top prospects' showdown in The Show

Sharing same age and same name, Holliday, Chourio square off

April 13th, 2024

Baseball’s top two prospects are sharing the same field in Baltimore. They’re both named Jackson, and they’re both only 20 years old, though the Brewers’ has bragging rights over the Orioles’ for being the younger of the two.

Not by much. Holliday, baseball’s No. 1-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline, was be 20 years, 130 days old when he made his home debut in Friday’s opener of a three-game series at Camden Yards. Chourio, ranked No. 2, was just 20 years, 32 days old.

“If I get a chance,” Chourio said with the smile he’s been wearing since debuting with the Brewers on Opening Day, “I might remind him.”

"I'm excited to see him play," Holliday said of his Jackson counterpart.

Both are embracing the hype of the first matchup between young stars, even though they struggled during the series opener. Chourio went 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in the Brewers' 11-1 victory, while Holliday went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and is still seeking his first career hit.

Their paths have crossed only briefly before now, at last year’s All-Star Futures Game in Seattle.

“I think it’s awesome,” Chourio said. “This is what both of us have worked for, what both of us have dreamed of. Hopefully, we’re both able to go out and have very long careers.”

Add the Jackson & Jackson matchup to the drama of a weekend series abounding with storylines thanks to the Feb. 1 trade that sent two other top prospects, DL Hall and Joey Ortiz, to the Brewers for former National League Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burnes.

Hall is scheduled to start on Saturday for the Brewers, Burnes on Sunday for the Orioles.

“I’d say it’s going to be a pretty electric weekend there,” said Hall, who got a taste of the Majors with Baltimore in 2022 and ’23 before breaking this season in the Brewers’ starting rotation. “It’s the two prospects battling it out. Those are probably the best two young players in the game.”

Chourio has heard all about his youth since signing a record-setting, eight-year, $82 million contract back in December, then becoming the sixth-youngest position player in the division era (since 1969) to debut on Opening Day. He was the youngest player to lead off in his Major League debut on Opening Day since Hall of Famer Bobby Doerr, who was 19 years and 13 days old with the Boston Red Sox in 1937.

So far, so good. As Milwaukee’s regular right fielder, Chourio has a hit in nine of his first 11 Major League games, including his first two home runs.

Now comes Holliday, who drove in a run in his own Major League debut as Baltimore’s second baseman on Wednesday night in Boston. His arrival bumped another Jackson -- Padres center fielder Jackson Merrill -- down to third on the list of MLB’s current youngest players.

"It's really cool," Holliday said. "I know the three Jacksons, right, are all 20? It's pretty cool to be able to be a part of that and the younger generation coming into the game. It's really cool to be a part of, and we'll probably get to compete against each other for a long time."

The heat on that trio is a little bit more intense than what Robin Yount felt when he made his Brewers debut on Opening Day in 1974 at 18 years old, or when Cal Ripken Jr. came up to the Orioles as a 20-year-old in 1981. For Holliday and Chourio, the challenge is twofold: Succeed in the Major Leagues at the same age as most college juniors, and do it under the brightest of spotlights.

“I had a mental skills coach talk to me about this when I was debuting,” said Hall, himself a Futures Game alumnus and a former Top 100 prospect. “He said the storm is coming, and the storm is all of the outside excitement and buildup. It’s coming and you can’t change that.

“That’s like this weekend. The excitement’s going to be there, and you can’t run from it. You have to face it and embrace it. Use the energy of the storm in a positive way. Now when I feel all that nervous energy and the crowd cheering like in the playoffs last year, I know to look around and go, ‘Holy [smokes], this is cool.’”

It’s changed everything.

“Since I stopped trying to block it out and pretend you don’t feel it,” Hall said, “I’ve learned to look for it. I chase it every day.”

Both of the Brewers’ newcomers had only limited time with Holliday in the Orioles system, but they loved what they saw. Hall was struck by Holliday’s poise and professionalism in big league camp, no surprise from the son of former Major League All-Star Matt Holliday. Ortiz said he loved how pure a hitter Holliday can be, and how he embraced the hype.

“When the camera’s on you, that’s a good thing,” Ortiz said.

And their impressions of Chourio?

“How easy he makes it look at 20,” Ortiz said.

Said Hall: “Just look at him. That dude can play.”

With two weeks in the big leagues already in the books, Chourio was asked what advice he’d give Holliday if he had the chance.

“That he has fun, that he keeps playing hard and that he keeps playing the way that he does,” Chourio said. “The big thing is that he enjoys it.”

That’s what Chourio has done so far.

“Always,” he said in English.