'Strong possibility' Holliday makes O's Opening Day roster

December 6th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- is no longer a teenager, having celebrated his 20th birthday on Monday. It’s possible the next major milestone for the Orioles’ top prospect will arrive as early as March 28 -- when he could become a big leaguer.

During the Winter Meetings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort on Tuesday, Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said it’s “definitely a very strong possibility” Holliday could make the club’s 2024 Opening Day roster. It would cap a meteoric rise for MLB Pipeline’s No. 1 overall prospect, who was selected with the first pick of the ‘22 Draft and played at all four full-season Minor League levels in ‘23, his first full professional season.

Holliday, the son of former MLB All-Star outfielder Matt Holliday, was invited to big league Spring Training in 2023, but he was only there to experience it for a few weeks before getting reassigned to Minor League camp. In ‘24, he’ll be treated “not like a prospect,” but as “a guy trying to make the team,” per Elias.

“I don’t want to put the cart before the horse. But he had a historic first full season in the Minors,” Elias said. “Probably you have to go back into like the ‘80s or ‘90s to find something similar to that, in my opinion, for an American kid out of high school.”

As Holliday rapidly ascended the Orioles’ Minor League system this year, he continually impressed along the way. He put up video-game-like numbers with Single-A Delmarva (a .396/.522/.660 slash line in 14 games), before raking during his stints with High-A Aberdeen (.314/.452/.488 in 57 games) and Double-A Bowie (.338/.421/.507 in 36 games).

Those performances earned Holliday a September promotion to Triple-A Norfolk, where he slashed .267/.396/.400 over 18 games and then helped the Tides win both the International League title and the Triple-A National Championship.

In 125 games across all four levels, Holliday collected 30 doubles, nine triples, 12 homers, 75 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and 113 runs scored.

“I’ve never seen a kid that young have that much success this fast, and especially at a high level like Triple-A,” Baltimore manager Brandon Hyde said.

The only similar rise Hyde could remember from his time in baseball was Giancarlo Stanton, who played for Double-A Jacksonville as a 19-year-old in 2009, while Hyde was manager. Stanton returned to the level to begin ‘10 (his age-20 season) before making his big league debut for the Marlins later that year on June 8.

Holliday may not have to wait that deep into the 2024 calendar, as it seems possible he could be in the Orioles’ Opening Day lineup vs. the Angels on March 28 at Camden Yards.

“We’re going to give him every look, as many looks as possible, in Spring Training,” Hyde said. “We obviously really believe in his talent. He’s going to have a huge future and a great career.”

At 20, Holliday still has room to grow -- both literally and in the baseball sense. A 2022 graduate of Stillwater (Okla.) High School, he was listed at 6-foot and 185 pounds this past season.

The Orioles are eager to see how Holliday fills out his frame as he continues to get older.

“To me, that’s a big year of development, 19 to 20,” Elias said. “I mean, you get taller, you get heavier, you get more mature. There’s a lot of good things that can happen. So we just want to see what he looks like.”

Not only is Holliday gaining muscle this offseason, but he’s fine-tuning his skills. He and his younger brother, Ethan -- already a top prospect in the 2025 Draft class -- have been posting hitting videos on their “Holliday Hacks” account on social media.

Among the Holliday brothers’ guests has been free-agent outfielder Joey Gallo. The siblings also recently held a home run derby in Oklahoma with their dad.

It’s all baseball all the time for the Hollidays, including Jackson.

“It’s been super fun to see Jackson continue to develop. Being as young as he is, he’s still continuing to grow into his potential,” said new Orioles director of player development Anthony Villa, who served as the club’s Minor League hitting coordinator in 2023. “He carries himself extremely well and works really hard, and the skill set is really impressive.”

When Holliday reports to Spring Training, the plan is for him to work at both shortstop (where he’s played 112 Minor League games) and second base (25), but not at third (two), per Elias. The Orioles feel Holliday is best at those two positions, and it’s also where they could have the most available infield playing time in 2024.

Veteran second baseman Adam Frazier is a free agent and unlikely to return. Reigning American League Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson will play both short and third, while Jordan Westburg will bounce between second and third. Baltimore also has Ramón Urías (who can play at every spot in the infield) and Jorge Mateo (a plus defender at shortstop).

So the opening is there. Now, Holliday will just need to show he’s ready for the big leagues once he reports to Sarasota, Fla., in February.

“We’re going to give him every opportunity,” Hyde said.