Holliday No. 1 as O's place 6 on Top 100 Prospects list

January 27th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- For the second straight year, the Orioles will have the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball at the start of the season in 2024. Now, will aim to continue following in the footsteps of ‘23 American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Gunnar Henderson.

MLB Pipeline released its updated Top 100 Prospects list on Friday night, and unsurprisingly, Holliday topped the rankings. The 20-year-old shortstop moved into the No. 1 spot last June and has remained there since.

In addition to Holliday, five other Baltimore prospects appear on the new Top 100 list: catcher (No. 17), outfielder (No. 19), infielder (No. 30), outfielder (No. 32) and infielder (No. 63).

The only team with more prospects on the list is the Cubs (seven). However, the Orioles’ 444 prospect points are the most in MLB. (Clubs earn 100 points for having the No. 1 prospect, 99 for No. 2, etc.)

Unlike Henderson last year, Holliday isn’t a lock to break camp with the Orioles out of Spring Training. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft hasn’t yet reached the big leagues, and he has only 145 games of Minor League experience after climbing all four full-season affiliates in ‘23.

But Holliday has a chance to make the team and possibly make his MLB debut on Opening Day vs. the Angels on March 28 at Camden Yards. At the Winter Meetings in December, general manager Mike Elias said there’s “definitely a very strong possibility” Holliday is part of Baltimore’s initial 26-man roster for 2024.

“I just think it’s going to be collectively, ‘Do we think this guy is ready or not?’” manager Brandon Hyde said Thursday, the first day of the Orioles’ Birdland Caravan. “We’re going to put the best roster out there and try to win games from the beginning. Also that, coupled with, ‘Is he ready for the Major Leagues?’ Somebody that has gone through the Minor Leagues that fast, that young -- that’s a big decision, and it’s something we’re going to be really careful about. ...

“This is the first time he’s ever trying to win a Major League job, and a lot goes into that. But we’re going to give him a good look.”

Even if Holliday doesn’t break camp with the O’s, it’d be surprising if he doesn’t reach the big leagues this year. In 2023, he posted a .323/.442/.499 slash line with 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 home runs, 75 RBIs, 113 runs scored and 24 stolen bases in 125 Minor League games.

The son of former All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday is already knocking on the big league door and could be a contender for the 2024 AL Rookie of the Year Award once he reaches Baltimore, where he’ll join Henderson and catcher Adley Rutschman, a pair of former No. 1 overall prospects.

“Jackson is special, man,” Cowser said during Birdland Caravan. “He’s got a work ethic that I definitely didn’t have as a 20-year-old. He’s really talented. I’m just really looking forward to watching him during the spring and seeing how he progresses.”

While Holliday remained atop the Top 100 Prospects list, Basallo was one of the biggest movers in the updated rankings. The 19-year-old catcher ascended to No. 17 after ending the 2023 season at No. 46.

A native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, who signed with the Orioles in January 2021, Basallo played above Rookie ball for the first time in ‘23 and had an impressive showing. In 114 games across three levels (Single-A Delmarva, High-A Aberdeen and Double-A Bowie), he slashed .313/.402/.551 with 26 doubles, seven triples, 20 homers and 86 RBIs.

It’s likely that Basallo will return to Double-A (where he’s played only four games) to open 2024.

Cowser, Kjerstad and Ortiz all made their MLB debuts last year, but none of the three has played more than 26 big league games. Each will be looking to win a roster spot during Spring Training, with Cowser and Kjerstad both in the mix to serve as Baltimore’s fourth outfielder.

Ortiz will be joined by Mayo in the infield competition, but it’s possible both return to Triple-A Norfolk to start the season because of the surplus of talent in the fold.