Holliday talks about playing 2nd for the Orioles: 'I'll be ready' - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Spring Training

Holliday talks about playing 2nd for the Orioles: ‘I’ll be ready’

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SARASOTA, Florida—At December’s Winter Meetings, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said that Jackson Holliday, the consensus top prospect in baseball, had a good chance to make the team this spring.

“It’s definitely a very strong possibility,” Elias said then, and Holliday is here ahead of Monday’s deadline for position players to report getting ready for his big chance.

Last year, Holliday, who was the overall No. 1 pick in 2022, had played only 20 professional games but was still invited to major league spring training.

“I thought he fit right in last year,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s gotten a little bigger and a little stronger, taking ground balls every day. He looks great.”

Holliday stayed with the Orioles well into March, and began his season with Single-A Delmarva, where he ended 2022. After 14 games, he was promoted to High-A Aberdeen. He was with the IronBirds for 57 games and moved on to Double-A Bowie for 36 games. He finished with 18 with Triple-A Norfolk.

“It’s a little bit more exciting,” said Holliday, who played shortstop. “You get a chance to make the team. Just trying to take it day-by-day and enjoy these guys and enjoy getting better.”

Holliday, who turned 20 on December 4th, was in high school two years ago at this time.

“He had a historic first full season in the minors, probably you’d have to go back to the ’80s or ’90s to find something similar to that for an American kid out of high school,” Elias said.

Overall, Holliday hit .323 with a .941 OPS, 12 home runs, 75 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.

“It’s pretty neat to be in this position,” Holliday said. “Excited to be in this position. Obviously, to make the big leagues out of camp would be pretty awesome, so it’s encouraging and exciting.

“Just trying to get better every day. I’m not trying to do anything crazy, just play my game and talking to certain guys. That’s what their advice was to just keep playing the game that I love and not change too much, just try to get better and learn more every day.”

Holliday, who was named the organization’s minor league Player of the Year, was with Norfolk when the Tides won the Triple-A championship.

“It’s a lot different,” Holliday said of Triple-A. “You’re playing against guys that have been in the big leagues. Some of them have been in the big leagues for a long time. It was a little different, but towards the end, I started to adjust a lot better.

“Just compared to Double-A and Triple-A, I’d say the guys can throw wherever they want a little bit more. In Double-A, there’s probably a little bit better stuff. Once I got to Triple-A, I realized I needed to be a little bit more particular with the pitches I swing at because they like to nibble. I learned a lot, and I’m in a better position than I was at the end of the year.”

Even though he’s still the youngest player in spring training, Holliday feels ready for the major leagues.

“Absolutely, I as ready as I can be,” Holliday said. “I’m excited.”

It’s hard to realize that Holliday is a 20 based on the way he plays, not the way he looks.

“He doesn’t act that way,” Hyde said. “He’s very mature for his age. He looks young, but he doesn’t play the game that way.”

The only games Hyde has seen him play were Grapefruit League games in 2023.

“He doesn’t seem nervous when he’s playing. He seems really comfortable. He seems comfortable working out with the guys and taking ground balls with them,” Hyde said. “I didn’t think he was overmatched at the plate last year in major league spring training. That’s unbelievably impressive for his age.”

Holliday acknowledges that his 2023 year surprised him a bit.

“I was just trying to go out there and enjoy it and take it day-by-day. That’s part of the plan,” he said. “I was excited with how the season went and looking forward to this one.”

Last year, the Orioles had Adam Frazier as a left-handed hitting second baseman. This year, it could be Holliday. It’s possible the Orioles will play Holliday at second and shortstop, and Gunnar Henderson at short and third. Jorge Mateo also can play short and center field.

“The plan is to play shortstop and second base at a high level, making sure I’m ready at second base,” Holliday said. “Getting stronger every day. You look around the locker room, guys are really physical, and that’s something I need to improve on. With my swing, just cleaning things up and working on my direction and making sure that I’m ready.”

Holliday knows second base could be his key to making the Orioles.

“I don’t know what the plan is. If it is, then I’ll be ready,” he said. “So far in practice, it’s been pretty good. Just learning bits and pieces and trying to put them together and trying to stay athletic with it. It’s a position you have to be athletic with, play the game and it will be natural.”

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