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Jackson Holliday moved into his third apartment of the season Friday, the latest step in the 19-year-old shortstop’s rapid rise through the Baltimore Orioles’ organization.
Last year’s No. 1 overall pick arrived at Double-A in mid-July, fresh off a Futures Game appearance in Seattle. This was the rung in the minor-league system he targeted when he began the year at Single-A Delmarva, and he made it with a couple months to spare.
Is there a fourth stop in his immediate future? Or even a fifth?
“I don’t know what’s possible and what’s not possible,” Holliday said. “That would be quite something. But I wouldn’t put it past myself at this point. Who knows?”
First things first: Mastering Double-A.
Holliday had to wait out a rain delay of a little more than an hour that winnowed out the announced crowd of 3,593 on the night of his Baysox debut.
Batting second, he worked a 3-0 count in his first plate appearance before grounding out, then chopped a single past the second baseman his next time up for his first hit with Bowie. He capped his 2-for-5 night with a sharp opposite-field single to left in the ninth.
For the weekend, he hit .500 (6-for-12) in three games against Akron.
Holliday’s ascent came after he scorched the Florida Complex League for a little more than a week after signing with the Orioles, then spending 12 games at Delmarva. He was sent back to Delmarva to begin this year, but quickly graduated to High-A after slashing .396/.522/.600 with two homers and 16 RBIs in 14 games.
Aberdeen proved moderately more difficult. He hit .190 in his first six games before quickly adjusting, raising his average to .410 by May 24.
Then came a relatively quiet June and a .226/.381/.321 slash line. But he broke out of that in his final two games with the IronBirds, going 7-for-9 with two walks and seven runs scored.
“There were some games where I was hitting the ball hard right at people and some games where I couldn’t even touch the ball,” Holliday said. “Just being able to overcome that and go through that is very important and very valuable. I think I’ve gotten better at it. I think taking it at bat to at bat versus game to game was really helpful. Sometimes I struck out twice and ended the game with three hits.”
With plenty of frequency, he’s gotten a barrel on the ball. It’s arguably Holliday’s most developed skill at age 19, and it allowed him to ultimately hit .314 with five homers and 35 RBIs in his more than two months at Aberdeen.
That was a facet of his game that he paid specific attention to last winter during his first offseason in the Orioles’ chain.
“I think whenever I’m making contact and I’m hitting the ball hard, it’s at the right launch angle where I can get hits,” Holliday said. “I’m not the strongest guy, so I can’t hit it straight up in the air and hopefully it goes over the fence. Just being able to control where I hit the ball and whenever I do, hitting it hard.”
After his Futures Game appearance last weekend, he went home to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to relax for a few days before making his way back to the East Coast. Clearly, it was a busy week Holliday — though, as he pointed out upon arriving at Bowie, it wasn’t anything he hadn’t experienced after spending much of his childhood around baseball thanks to the career of his father.
Matt Holliday was a seven-time All-Star who played 15 seasons with Colorado, Oakland, St. Louis and the New York Yankees, and his perspective as a former player has helped inform his son’s first year as a pro.
“He texted me the other day and said ‘This looks fun. I wish I could still be doing that,’” Jackson Holliday said. “That’s kind of neat for me. Sometimes you get tired and I just think about that, how he got to play for so long and he still misses it so much.”
Soon enough, there could be even greater fun. While Holliday won’t be needlessly rushed to the majors, Baltimore has shown no interest in keeping him at a level he’s already mastered.
Now two steps away from the big leagues, it’s not hard to imagine him joining the likes of Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser as another young player prepared to immediately play a prominent role with the Orioles.
“You can go up there and feel part of the team,” Holliday said. “They made me feel like that during spring training, even though it’s only my first year. I’m looking forward to the day I get to go up there and help contribute.”
Colossus of Rhodes: Bowie outfielder John Rhodes hit three home runs Friday, becoming the seventh player in Baysox history to do so. The others: Mike Berry (1997), Calvin Pickering (1998), Nolan Reimold (2008), Brandon Waring (2013), Tucker Nathans (2017) and Hudson Haskin (2022).
It was the first multi-homer game in the minors for Rhodes, a third-round pick in 2021. He entered Friday with five homers in 226 at bats.
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