Orioles To Promote Jackson Holliday

Orioles To Promote Jackson Holliday


MLB’s top prospect is set to make his debut. ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (X link) that the O’s plan to call up Jackson Holliday. The team has yet to announce the move.

Holliday, the #1 overall pick in 2022, has destroyed minor league pitching. Despite being a high school draftee, he reaches the majors after just a year and a half in the minor leagues. The lefty-hitting infielder traversed four levels in his first full professional season. Holliday raked at a .323/.442/.499 clip over 581 plate appearances last season. He spent the majority of that time between High-A and Double-A but made it to the top minor league level late in the year.

That meteoric rise made it seem that the Oklahoma native had a real chance to break camp. That didn’t happen, as Baltimore reassigned Holliday back to Triple-A Norfolk late in Spring Training. The 20-year-old has opened the year on a tear as part of a loaded Tides lineup. He’d collected 13 hits (including four doubles and a pair of home runs) with 11 walks and eight strikeouts over his first nine games.

The son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, Jackson owns an excellent .321/.452/.497 batting line through 154 minor league games. In addition to his stellar offensive track record, he offers plenty of defensive value as an above-average or better middle infielder. Holliday has primarily played shortstop in the minors, but the O’s used him mostly at second base in Spring Training. Seven of his nine starts in Norfolk this year have come at the keystone, where he seems likely to break into the big leagues.

Holliday’s well-rounded profile has made him an essentially unanimous choice as the game’s best minor league talent. It’s the third straight season in which the O’s entered the year with a player whom most evaluators consider the sport’s top prospect. Holliday will now join Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson and plenty more talented young players at Camden Yards. He should pair with Henderson in what has the chance to be a franchise-defining middle infield.

Baltimore has relied on Jordan Westburg — himself a former first-round pick and highly-regarded prospect — as their primary second baseman in the early going. The Mississippi State product has started slowly, hitting .195/.242/.355 through his first nine games. Westburg could slide over to third base if the O’s want to keep him in the everyday lineup. Ramón Urías and Tony Kemp, each of whom is on the roster as a multi-positional infielder, have struggled (albeit in exceedingly small samples). Westburg still has options remaining and could theoretically be sent back to Norfolk; the Orioles would need to designate Urías or Kemp for assignment to take either player off the big league club.

The O’s will likely reveal the corresponding move tomorrow. Holliday is not yet on the 40-man roster, but Baltimore has two vacancies. Unless they DFA a player who can’t be optioned, they’ll only need to clear active roster space. Whatever the transaction, Holliday will step into the lineup on an everyday basis.

The timing of the promotion surely isn’t coincidental. By calling Holliday up before the end of this week, the O’s are still in position to afford him a full year of service time. A player is credited with a full service year if they’re on an MLB roster or injured list for at least 172 days. Despite his two-week stint in the minors, Holliday will narrowly surpass that mark if he’s in the majors for good.

Promoting a top prospect just before the cutoff for a full service year would’ve been unlikely under the previous collective bargaining agreement. It was more common to see teams hold down their top talents until a bit past that date to secure an extra year of contractual control. The 2022-26 CBA introduced the Prospect Promotion Incentive to reduce the temptation for teams to keep their best young players in the minor leagues.

The PPI allows the Orioles to potentially win a draft choice if Holliday hits the ground running. A top position player prospect who accrues a full service year as a rookie (even if he’s not on the Opening Day roster) would earn his team an extra pick after the first round if he wins Rookie of the Year or finishes in the top three in MVP voting during his pre-arbitration seasons. Holliday still meets that criteria. The O’s already earned an extra pick in the 2024 draft when Henderson won Rookie of the Year last season. If Holliday also pulls off that feat (or hits the more difficult MVP finish within his first three years), Baltimore would get another pick.

Had the Orioles waited beyond this week to promote Holliday, they’d have forfeited the chance at the PPI selection. Keeping him in Triple-A for another few days would’ve prevented him from reaching a full year of service through the traditional method, but a top prospect can also “earn” a full service year with a top-two finish in Rookie of the Year balloting regardless of when he was promoted. If the O’s called Holliday up in May, for instance, he could have played his way to a full service year through his ROY finish without netting the organization the extra pick. That played out in 2022, when Rutschman finished second in AL Rookie of the Year voting despite being called up in late May.

There’s an argument that the Orioles should simply have carried Holliday on the Opening Day roster. GM Mike Elias pointed to the youngster’s limited experience at second base and facing left-handed pitching as reasons for starting him in Norfolk. A combination of Holliday’s torrid start there and middling production from their MLB infielders led the front office to reverse course rather quickly.

If Holliday is in the majors for good, he’d first reach arbitration after the 2026 season. He’d be under team control through the ’29 campaign. Any future assignments to the minor leagues could push that trajectory back, but the O’s and their fans are surely hopeful that won’t be necessary now that Holliday is getting his first look at big league arms.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.


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