Flash back to these buzzworthy Orioles debuts

April 11th, 2024

The wait is over, although it wasn't a long one: has cracked the the Majors.

On April 10, the Orioles called up the elite prospect from Triple-A to make a highly anticipated MLB debut that resulted in a 7-5 win at Fenway Park. Just 20 years old, the No. 1 overall Draft pick in 2022 tore up the Minor Leagues in his brief time there, and is expected to make a major impact for Baltimore throughout his debut season.

With Holliday's debut in the rear-view mirror, let's take a look at some of the most buzzworthy debuts in Orioles history.

1. Jackson Holliday, 2B
April 10, 2024

When a No. 1 overall Draft pick out of high school makes his debut less than two years after being picked, it's generally pretty highly anticipated. But when that player in question is also the son of a 15-year MLB veteran and seven-time All-Star (), the already tremendous hype around the younger Holliday's debut took an even more preposterous leap. Holliday joined fellow former No. 1 pick Adley Rutschman and 2023 AL Rookie of the Year Gunnar Henderson as part of a younger generation expected to take the Orioles to new heights following an impressive 101-win season in 2023.

It remains to be seen what this trio will bring to the franchise. But as for Holliday's debut, the game was a thriller, with the Orioles overcoming a five-run deficit to win for the first time in nearly two years. The rookie himself struggled, though, finishing 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, along with a misplayed fly ball that resulted in Boston's first run (though it was scored as a single by Tyler O'Neill). He did still contribute with an RBI groundout, though, making him (at 20 years and 128 days old) became the fourth-youngest player in franchise history to record an RBI in his MLB debut.

2. Adley Rutschman, C
May 21, 2022

It's pretty rare to find a debut more highly anticipated than Rutschman's. Even his teammates were aware of it -- Trey Mancini, at that time the longest-tenured Oriole, wasn't sure if the city of Baltimore had experienced a bigger sports moment since 2014, when the club made it to the ALCS for the first time in 17 years. Of course, in the years between the playoff run and Rutschman's debut on May 21, 2022, baseball fans in Baltimore had experienced a lot, much of it unpleasant. In 2019, the year the Orioles made Rutschman a first overall draft pick, they lost 108 games, an improvement after the 47-115 season they'd had in 2018. Rutschman, as the centerpiece of a long rebuild, represented the possibility of a new era of Orioles baseball.

In Rutschman's debut, he went 1-for-3 with a triple, a fine day that marked a major shift in the 2022 season. The Orioles, who were nine games under .500 up until that point, went 67-54 over the remainder of the season, a run that had them playing down the stretch as contenders for a postseason berth. While they ultimately fell short of that goal, Rutschman himself ended the season hitting .254/.362/.445 with 13 homers and 42 RBIs, good for a second place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting.

3. Matt Wieters, C
May 29, 2009

Even though they’re different players, many compared Rutschman and Wieters because of the easy parallels: their position, their ability to switch-hit and the hype. It was so big with Wieters that then-team president Andy MacPhail went on television to announce his impending arrival days in advance, an extremely uncharacteristic move for the executive. The Orioles sold thousands of walk-up tickets for his debut, a late May game against the Tigers set almost two full years from the day they drafted Wieters fifth overall out of Georgia Tech. Press clippings from those days quoted people describing Wieters in such terms as “Joe Mauer with power,” "Switch-hitting Jesus” and “simply God.”

Like Rutschman, Wieters was the nation’s consensus top player and likely would’ve gone first overall if not for signability questions. Also similarly, the Orioles were trying to emerge from a dark period at the time; by 2009, they were mired in the 12th of what would be 14 consecutive losing seasons. Wieters went hitless in front of 42,704 fans in his debut and went on to be a four-time All-Star over eight seasons in Baltimore.

4. Manny Machado, 3B
Aug. 9, 2012

The Orioles didn’t miss much picking third in the ultra-talented 2010 Draft, selecting Machado out of the Miami high school ranks behind Bryce Harper and Jameson Taillon. He was in the Majors two years later, summoned a month after his 20th birthday to help an Orioles team eying its first playoff berth in 15 years. The city was abuzz with the postseason chances and the arrival of its new infield phenom.

"The only reason we did it, the biggest reason, is because we think he can help us win more games potentially," Orioles manager Buck Showalter told the Baltimore Sun at the time. "Our needs, and where Manny was, we felt like he could help us. We've got 50-ish games left and we think he's our best option.”

Moving to third with J.J. Hardy at short, Machado went 2-for-4 with a triple in his debut and contributed on both sides of the ball down the stretch, helping Baltimore to the American League Division Series. He quickly grew into a perennial All-Star and one of the most productive all-around players of the 2010s.

5. Ben McDonald, RHP
Sept. 6, 1989

Prospect hype is not exclusive to this era, but it is a relatively modern concept. There was no internet or social media when McDonald debuted for the Orioles down the stretch in ’89, but his arrival still marks one of the most anticipated by a pitcher in the history of the sport.

That was the product of McDonald’s All-American collegiate career at Louisiana State, where he twice led the Tigers to the College World Series and also starred for Team USA. He was the Orioles’ first ever No. 1-overall pick in ’89 -- and was in the Majors less than three months later for the “Why Not?” O’s team attempting to complete an unlikely playoff push. Those Orioles fell just short, using McDonald strictly in relief down the stretch. He’d go on to pitch seven solid, but not star-level, seasons for the Orioles, retiring after 1997 due to shoulder problems.

Honorable mention: RHP Mike Mussina, RHP Grayson Rodriguez, INF Gunnar Henderson, RHP Kevin Gausman, RHP Dylan Bundy, LHP Brian Matusz