No. 1 overall prospect Holliday sent to Triple-A

April 26th, 2024

BALTIMORE -- is returning to the Minors.

On Friday, the Orioles optioned Holliday (MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect) to Triple-A Norfolk only 16 days after he was called up to the big leagues for the first time. The 20-year-old infielder went 2-for-34 (.059) over his first 10 games for Baltimore.

Holliday’s only two hits were singles -- one on April 14 vs. the Brewers and another on Tuesday against the Angels. The latter came in his most recent appearance (a 1-for-4 showing with a run scored), but it wasn’t enough to keep him in the Majors.

Another contributing factor was the Orioles’ upcoming schedule, which features a heavy concentration of left-handed starters that would’ve resulted in Holliday’s absence from the lineup.

“I think the bright side of this is he got very intense, very specific feedback from Major League pitching,” Orioles general manager Mike Elias said on Friday. “He’s a brilliant talent and a very sharp kid, and I expect he’s going to go implement those adjustments really quickly. But we felt that Triple-A and steady playing time in Triple-A was the place for that.”

Over 36 plate appearances, Holliday struck out 18 times. He drew only two walks.

“You’re talking about somebody who’s never failed before. It’s a tough place to. I don’t think anybody, except for the people that are down here in uni, understand how hard this is,” manager Brandon Hyde recently said. “He’s going to go through struggles, and that’s part of being a professional baseball player -- how you deal with it, adversity, tough at-bats.”

Hyde and the rest of the Orioles’ staff were impressed with how Holliday handled himself despite a lack of results. Still, it could help for him to get a bit more time in Triple-A, where he played only 28 games during his rapid ascent through the Minors.

“I admired it, honestly,” Hyde said Friday. “I admired the maturity. How he handled tough at-bats, How he stayed engaged defensively. How you couldn’t tell he was down in any way. He came to the park ready to play.”

Still, it could help for him to get a bit more time in Triple-A after he played only 28 games with Norfolk in 2023 and '24 during his rapid ascent through the Minors. In his return, Hyde said, Holliday will take most of his defensive reps at second base, where he'd made just 33 appearances before his MLB debut.

The son of seven-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday and the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick, the young Holliday climbed all four full-season Minor League affiliates in ’23. He had a legitimate chance to break camp with Baltimore this spring, but he was instead sent to Norfolk to open the season.

Holliday slashed .333/.482/.595 with five doubles, two homers and nine RBIs in 10 games at Triple-A this year before he was called up by the Orioles on April 10, when he made his MLB debut vs. the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

“We moved him very fast through the Minors, but it’s because he was doing so well,” Elias said. “We were kind of trying to get him to a spot where he’s challenged. And then he gets all the way through Triple-A, comes into Spring Training and looks pretty good there. It was hard for me to know exactly where he was based on the evidence that I was working with.”

It isn’t the first time Baltimore has sent a top prospect back to the Minors after a tough start to his big league career. Last year, right-hander Grayson Rodriguez and outfielder Colton Cowser both had tough debut showings. Now, they’re integral parts of the O’s early success in 2024.

“It’s possible, just like it was for Grayson or Colton Cowser or any of these guys that this was a necessary development episode to be exposed to this before you’re fully ready for it,” Elias said. “It comes at a cost to get that negative feedback. But it’s valuable.”

Holliday was replaced on the Orioles’ roster by outfielder Ryan McKenna, who had his contract selected from Triple-A Norfolk. Catcher David Bañuelos was designated for assignment to make room for McKenna on the 40-man roster.