What Is Going On With Jackson Holliday?

Throughout their 5+ years of misery, the Orioles managed to get 4 top five picks in the MLB Draft, including two first overall picks. With these picks, the Orioles drafted what is supposed to be the foundation for the team for the foreseeable future: Adley Rutschman (2019), who has become arguably the best catcher in baseball; Heston Kjerstad (2020), an outfielder who has shown immense talent despite health issues early in his career; Colton Cowser (2021), a corner outfielder who had a strong start to his 2024 season; and Jackson Holliday (2022), a first overall pick who was straight-up horrible in his time in the majors this season. Rutschman, Kjerstad, and Cowser have all seen at least a small amount of success at the major league level, but the same cannot be said for Holliday, whose struggles in the big leagues seem to have followed him back to Triple-A Norfolk. Can he right the ship in time to contribute to the Orioles this season? Or is there something more serious going on with Holliday?

Jackson Holliday, a son of 7-time all-star and 2007 NLCS MVP Matt Holliday, was drafted by the Orioles as a shortstop from Stillwater High School (OK) with the first overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. At just 18 years old, Holliday slashed .297/.489/.422 and walked 25 times compared to just 12 strikeouts across Rookie Ball and Low-A in 2022, which was very promising considering his age. At the beginning of the 2023 season, he was ranked as the 12th best prospect in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. He certainly backed up that ranking, as he made it all the way to Triple-A Norfolk after tearing up the lower levels of the minor leagues.

Coming into 2024, Holliday was ranked as the number one prospect in the MLB and was seen as a candidate to break camp as part of the Opening Day roster. Even though he raked in Spring Training (.311/.354/.600 with 7 extra base hits), the Orioles opted to send him to Norfolk to start the season. He absolutely crushed the ball and forced the Orioles to call him up on April 9th for his debut. It seemed like everything was going perfectly for Holliday, but then reality struck. He started his career 0-14 with 9 strikeouts before hitting a groundball single against the Milwaukee Brewers on April 14th. His second hit didn’t come until April 23rd against the Angels, and after that game, Holliday had a slashline of .059/.111/.059 with a -49 wRC+ and -0.3 fWAR. The Orioles had seen enough and optioned him to Triple-A Norfolk the next day, where he continued to struggle.

As of May 27th, Holliday has taken 100 at-bats since returning to Norfolk. Here are his numbers: .240/.402/.390, .792 OPS, 9 XBH (3 home runs), 27 BBs, and 29 Ks in 26 games. On a more encouraging note, he has at least one hit in each of his past four games and seems to be getting back his confidence at the plate. In an interview with the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Holliday said regarding his recent struggles: “It’s hard, baseball is really hard, and just being able to adjust fast and find the positives in each and every at-bat.”

So, is there anything to worry about? Probably not. Holliday is just 20 years old and has all the potential to become an MVP-caliber player, just as his father was. He struggled mightily at the major league level, but a sample size of just 34 plate appearances means practically nothing when looking at the big picture. With Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo struggling, the Orioles may need infield help in the near future. The obvious candidate is Holliday and even if it isn’t within the next couple of weeks, we will almost certainly see him in Baltimore again at some point this season. Until then, we can only dream of what he will become when he puts it all together.