BALTIMORE -- The buzz continues to grow every day. It’s shaping up to be one of the biggest -- if not the biggest -- storyline during Spring Training across all 30 MLB camps.
“We’re bringing him into camp with a chance to make the team, and he’s going to be laser-focused on making the team,” Baltimore general manager Mike Elias said during an appearance on MLB Network Radio on Wednesday. “If he does make the team, we’re going to put him on the Opening Day roster.”
Elias hasn’t shied away from sharing Holliday’s odds of doing so this offseason. At the Winter Meetings in December, the Orioles’ GM stated there’s “a very strong possibility” the 20-year-old could break camp with the big league team and be in the Majors for the first time on Opening Day on March 28, when the O’s will host the Angels at Camden Yards.
However, it wasn’t exactly clear how Holliday would fit into Baltimore’s positional puzzle. Elias said in December that Holliday would get time at both shortstop (his primary position) and second base during the spring, as the 2022 No. 1 overall Draft pick has the ability to play both at a high level.
Elias reiterated that Wednesday, while also explaining how Holliday’s spring workload could be divided.
“I see Jackson being able to bounce back and forth between second and short, depending on the day’s alignment,” Elias said. “I think you’re going to see him at second base a lot during Spring Training, and I know [manager] Brandon Hyde is going to try to put the kid in a position to make the team and give him a real shot for that.”
It makes a ton of sense for Holliday to play mostly second base when he reaches the big leagues this year (whether that’s Opening Day or later).
A starting infield for Baltimore could feature Holliday at second, Henderson at short and Westburg at third -- or Westburg at second, Holliday at short and Henderson at third. The O’s love flexibility, and they clearly have plenty of that. But Henderson’s long-term future may be at shortstop, where he can best utilize his exceptional range.
The Orioles prefer to have a good balance of right-handed and left-handed hitters in their lineup. Without Holliday, Henderson would be the only lefty hitter in the infield mix, after veteran second baseman Adam Frazier left via free agency, signing with the Royals.
Elias has stated he believes there’s playing time available for a left-handed-hitting second baseman heading into the 2024 season. Of the 59 players on Baltimore’s spring roster, only two fit that description -- Holliday and 26-year-old utility man Nick Maton, who was acquired from the Tigers in exchange for cash considerations on Wednesday night.
It would be exciting to have MLB’s top prospect make an Opening Day debut at the age of 20. And Holliday could make that happen.
But first, he’ll need to show up to Sarasota, Fla., by Feb. 19 (when Orioles position players are due to report) and prove he’s ready for it.