When the Orioles last had the MLB’s first pick, they selected a player who was seen as the best candidate available and one who became a leading force in their rebuild of catcher Adley Rutschman.
By taking on that spot three years later on Sunday night with Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday, Baltimore passed on this year’s perceived top player but got the one they consider to be that, with the organization believing it got a player who just as much of a difference maker as Rutschman, either way.
“It’s hard to explain what it means,” Holliday said. “It’s like a video game, honestly. Every video game you play, you’re the first choice, so it kind of felt like that. Something I’ll never forget, and it’s a real honor.
“I want to honor the Orioles for selecting me and I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it to the big leagues and have a great career for them and their fans.”
Holliday, the son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, was considered one of the draft’s top prospects, second by MLB Pipeline and third by Baseball America. But in drafting him, the Orioles passed on Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones, both of whom had publications as the best player in the class. Jones was second overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Holliday didn’t hear he would be the No. 1 pick until the public did, when his father got a call from Agent Scott Boras and kept the news a secret for the next minute.
“I’m just really happy for Jackson,” Matt Holliday told MLB Network. “This has been his dream as long as he is old enough to achieve this goal.”
Holliday becomes the first high school position player to be named Baltimore’s first-choice since Manny Machado in 2010. As a left-handed batter, he showed improved strength and speed in his senior season at Stillwater High School. Holliday can be traced back to his father’s influence and has a great approach to the record and strong instincts as he set a national record for hits in a season, hoping he would also have inherited his father’s power.
In his senior 40-game season, Holliday, 18, hit .685 with a .749 on-base percentage and 1,392 slugging percentage thanks to 52 extra-base hits, including 17 home runs, and added 30 steals. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Holliday emerged relatively late as a possible candidate for the No. 1 pick. The club did not consider him for selection at staff meetings over the winter, but his improvements since then mean the organization see him as a potential fixture.
“The benefit to him is huge,” Elias said. “It’s a potential star who plays shortstop, hits in the middle of the order, and does that for a very long time. In a way, I don’t know that the ceiling gets much higher than someone with that profile.”
Elias said Holliday’s outbreak set off “a fire alarm in the Scouting industry.” Field scouts Ken Guthrie and Jim Richardson followed before Elias made the trip to Stillwater to see Holliday in three games and a practice, and met his family, several generations of whom live in the college town between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Holliday was the Orioles’ pick in a class dotted with sons of former major leaguers, with the children of Andruw Jones, Carl Crawford and Lou Collier also in the first round. The Orioles chose Holliday from a group of five players that Elias confirmed, without naming them, included Jones, Florida high school outfielder Elijah Green (fifth overall for Washington) and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee (eighth overall for Minnesota). Georgia high school second baseman Termarr Johnson, who finished fourth overall in Pittsburgh, was believed to be fifth.
With such a large group in mind, Elias acknowledged a week before the draft that it was doubtful that all Orioles decision-makers would agree on one player. He said on Sunday that Holliday received a “yes” vote from Orioles decision-makers, even if some favored another player.
“I think ‘consensus’ is the right word for it,” Elias said. “It was not unanimous. It never is. … But this was a player that everyone involved deemed worthy of selection.
“It was a very difficult decision in a good way. I would compare it to deciding what to order in a five-star restaurant.”
The first overall pick has a closing value of just over $8.84 million, and while Holliday’s signing bonus isn’t expected to reach that figure, his pick isn’t one that suggests the Orioles will deploy the underslot strategy they’re using. in their previous two. to design. Holliday is committed to Oklahoma State, where his uncle, Josh, runs the program, his father is an assistant, and his grandfather and great-uncle previously coached. He is also a client of Boras, the sport’s most famous agent who represented both his father and uncle throughout their playing careers.
After college outfielders Heston Kjerstad second overall in 2020 and Colton Cowser fifth overall in 2021, the Orioles both signed deals that were significantly below closing values for their draft positions, allowing Baltimore to spread those savings to other prospects later in the draft. Even when receiving a then-record $8.1 million bonus, Rutschman signed below his closing value, with those savings largely spent on second-round Gunnar Henderson, who has since gone on to become the Orioles’ No. represented. high school student for vacation.
This year, the Orioles’ total bonus pool is nearly $17 million, trailing only the 2015 Houston Astros. Elias was Houston’s amateur scouting director at the time, and this is only the third time of the nine top five picks he’s been involved in that his team has selected a high school player.
“I’m hopeful that Jackson has a good chance of going through the minors efficiently and joining this group we’re seeing,” Elias said. “I’ve seen high school picks that are just as fast if not faster than college players. It just depends. Everyone is different. But this was the prospect we wanted to add to our pipeline.”
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Elias has had mixed success with his previous three first-round selections in Baltimore. Rutschman became the top-ranked prospect in baseball, seen as the face of the Orioles’ rebuilding and a player who was able to turn their tide. Baltimore has been a much more successful team since his promotion in late May, finishing the first half of Sunday as a surprise contender for the playoffs.
Kjerstad didn’t make his professional debut until two years after his selection, after he was diagnosed with heart myocarditis as a result of the draft this spring and suffered a left hamstring injury this spring. He was promoted to High-A Aberdeen last week after dominating younger pitchers with Low-A Delmarva.
After selecting him, Elias said Cowser had the potential to be a fast riser, and he has proven to be, despite some difficulties along the way. Despite more swings and misses from his time with Sam Houston, Cowser has already reached Double-A, which will see him join the Orioles sometime in 2023.
Holliday will be the latest addition to a roster of middle infielders that Elias has stocked since he took charge of the front office, along with Henderson, Jordan Westburg, Terrin Vavra, Connor Norby, César Prieto and more. To build the “elite talent pipeline” Elias promised when he was first introduced, the Orioles system needs to be continually replenished, and Holliday’s roster marks the first of this year’s additions.
“When you’re a short stop, it’s hard to see yourself blocked,” Elias said.
The Orioles had three more picks in Sunday’s draft opening night. On either side of the 42nd overall roster to open the second round, they had a competitive balance pick—first their own at number 33, then one they bought from the Miami Marlins, number 67, as part of the return for relievers Cole Sulser and Tanner Scott.
Baltimore has first pick in every subsequent round, with rounds 3-10 on Monday before the draft closes with 10 rounds Tuesday.