Home O’s top prospect Jackson Holliday: ‘I don’t think I’m far off’ from a return to MLB

O’s top prospect Jackson Holliday: ‘I don’t think I’m far off’ from a return to MLB

jackson holliday
Photo: Scott German/AFP

Jackson Holliday, the Baltimore Orioles top prospect, doesn’t use word salad to describe why his call up to the big leagues lasted just 10 games.

“I wasn’t completely ready,” Holliday told me before Wednesday night’s game at Harbor Park, as the Triple-A Norfolk Tides prepared for Game 2 of a week-long series with the Gwinnett Stripers.

Hard to argue that.

Holliday began the season in Norfolk, was called up to Baltimore in mid-April.

Holliday, the son of former MLB All-Star Matt Holliday, hit .059 (2-for-34) in 10 April games, striking out 18 times.

So, how did Holliday describe his brief stay in Baltimore?

“Not pretty,” he said.

Again, hard to argue that.

In 27 Triple-A games entering Wednesday night’s International League contest with Atlanta’s top affiliate, Holliday was hitting .243 with four home runs and 11 RBIs since his return to Tidewater on April 27.

Thanks to the Tides’ director of communications, John Stanley, I was able to spend some time with both Holliday and Norfolk manager Buck Britton Wednesday afternoon.

My initial observation after watching Holliday and a few other Norfolk players take batting practice was simply how the ball jumped off Holliday’s bat. His swing looked flawless, his approach, even three hours before gametime, was all business.

“I don’t think I’m far off,” said Holiday, who won’t turn 21 until December.

Holiday sounded as though he was trying to convince me that his return to Baltimore would be sooner than later.

Then he surprised me.

He went on to sound anything like a bonus baby who signed an $8 million bonus two years ago.

“Yeah, I can say I don’t think I’m far off, but my time in Baltimore was tough. Facing big-league caliber pitching was much different than even what I faced in spring training,” said Holliday.

Holliday appeared in 10 games for Baltimore, making his MLB debut in Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.

When I told Holliday I had just returned from a trip to Fenway Park to see a Red Sox game, he asked me what that experience was like.

My response was, “Cool, now how was it for you?”

Holiday replied, “It was awesome. I just tried to relax and take it all in.”

The Orioles are in a good situation with Holliday. Current Baltimore second baseman Jorge Mateo is having a solid season, hitting .236 with a .734 OPS, and playing his usual Gold Glove-caliber defense.

This allows the Orioles to be more patient with Holliday as he works his way back to the Majors, and Holliday grasps the concept.

“I learned from my time in Baltimore. I learned about failing, failing a lot,” admitted Holliday.

“Being back here in Norfolk, I’m just trying to be more prepared. I think it’s just the little adjustments. That’s how it usually is in baseball,” noted Holliday.

Britton had nothing but praise for Holliday and his workman-like mentality while in Norfolk.

“I think anytime you make even slight adjustments, especially at his age, when you’ve had success doing it one way your entire life, and you go to the big leagues and you get a wakeup call, that can be tough,” Britton said.

“But Jackson is attacking this. He works incredibly hard every day. He wants to get back to the big leagues, and he will,” added Britton.

Britton speaks from experience; he’s managed baseball’s past three No. 1 overall prospects.

“When he gets totally comfortable, I think his numbers will soar,” said Britton. “And we’ll see where he’s at in a few weeks. This kid is going to play in the big leagues for a long time.”

Against Gwinnett Wednesday, Jackson led off the game with a rope single to center field. He followed that up in the third with a single to left.

With that same perfect swing I had observed a few hours earlier in the humid Tidewater afternoon air.

Holliday commented to me that he was focusing on using the entire field, the way he did in spring training.

With his first two plate appearances being a single to center and a single to left, his return to Baltimore might be soon.

Scott German

Scott German

Scott German covers UVA Athletics for AFP, and is the co-host of “Street Knowledge” podcasts focusing on UVA Athletics with AFP editor Chris Graham. Scott has been around the ‘Hoos his whole life. As a reporter, he was on site for UVA basketball’s Final Fours, in 1981 and 1984, and has covered UVA football in bowl games dating back to its first, the 1984 Peach Bowl.