As the first half of the MLB season ends on Sunday, Executive Vice President and General Manager Mike Elias can look around the Orioles organization and feel confident in its direction. With Baltimore going into the All-Star break at .500, and the first overall pick in Sunday night’s draft, the Orioles cheered up an already prospect-rich farming system with the selection of high school shortstop Jackson Holiday.
“I think this Orioles organization is in the healthiest place it’s been in for a very long time,” Elias said. “And it just got a lot healthier 20 minutes ago.”
Jackson, who was selected by the Orioles from Stillwater High School in Oklahoma, was named Baseball America’s High School Player of the Year. The 18-year-old is the son of seven-time All-Star outfielder Matt Holiday, so he’s already been around a big league clubhouse.
There’s still a lot to refine his game – as is the case for any high schooler – but the pick was as close to the consensus Elias could want among the Orioles’ draft room. Once a contract is signed between Baltimore and Holiday, the rookie will report to the Florida Complex League to begin his professional career.
Until then, here are five things to know about the Orioles’ first overall pick.
a major league dad
Holiday is not alone in this. For the first time ever, the top two picks in the draft were the sons of former major league players – Holiday to the Orioles and Drew Jones, son of Andrew Jones, to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Matt Holiday played 15 years in the Majors, including eight with the St. Louis Cardinals, whom he represented four times in the Midsummer Classic.
But beyond the potential power and speed between Matt and Jackson Holiday, the similarities largely end there. For one, they play in different positions. Jackson is a left-handed batsman while his father is a right-handed batsman.
“He is his own player,” Elias said.
Holiday spent a lot of time in major league clubhouses, however, his father retired at the age of 14. Being close to that lifestyle helped prepare Holiday for the moment.
“I remember being in the clubhouse from the time he moved to St. Louis,” Jackson Holiday said. “It’s definitely an advantage. I get to see what it takes to get into the big leagues, and how players – even if they are at the top of their game – work to keep it up. Huh.
He projects to remain shortstop
It’s hard to figure out how all players will fit into an outfit, and the Orioles already have medium-field talent in the upper tiers of the minors, including Jordan Westberg and Gunnar Henderson, as their No. 4 and 2 prospects. Ranked as, according to Baseball America. But Elias expects Holiday to remain a shortstop as a pro.
And with the athleticism of most shortstops and their ability to move around the field, it shouldn’t be difficult to find play time. Elias noted that when he was with the Houston Astros, he selected Alex Bregman the year Carlos Correa made his debut, and “we never worried about that, and certainly both of those great players in the lineup.” Found a way to bring it in.”
Holiday knows there will always be competition for the shortstop role. But he is desperate to continue in this position.
“Shortstop is where the best players like to play,” Holiday said. “I’ve got so many great players to be a part of every team, and I’ve gotten really good at playing other positions. I played a lot of second base last summer. But shortstop is up my alley and needs to be done. I enjoy it.”
family of trainers
In addition to the father playing in the majors, Holiday’s family is full of coaches. His uncle, Josh, coaches at Oklahoma State, and his father is an assistant there. Holiday’s grandfather and great-grandfather had previously coached at Oklahoma State.
That’s the school to which Holiday was committed, but after being selected with the first pick, he would probably never play for the Cowboys. But his uncle, Josh, is not too sad to learn that he will lose his top recruit.
“He was so excited tonight,” Holiday said of his uncle. “It was great to see. He was one of the first people I saw afterward, so I think he’ll be fine.”
Record-breaking senior season attracts scouts
Elias admitted that Holiday was not initially in the Orioles’ plans for a top pick during last year’s winter meetings. But the rapid development in Holliday’s senior season this spring sent scouts to Oklahoma to watch him play, and they cheered.
Holiday down .685/.749/1.392 with 52 extra-base hits and 79 RBI. His 89 hits broke a national single-season high school record that belonged to current Philadelphia Phillies catcher JT Realmuto.
Holiday said he was able to complete the classes online, which allowed him and his father to “take advantage of everything that was expected in this situation.”
“My father and I were able to train and work out and hit almost every single day, and it developed me as a whole player,” Holiday said. “I am the one who wants to be good at everything. I don’t want any weaknesses, so it was very important to try to develop myself as a person and as a player, and it worked.”
He’s Not New to Camden Yards
Whenever Holiday reaches the majors and plays at Camden Yards, it will not be his first time playing baseball inside Oriole Park. When his father played for the New York Yankees in 2017, Holiday rocked fly balls during batting practice at Camden Yards.
“It’s something I still remember and I’m very excited to be back at that point,” Holiday said. “They’re a great organization and they’re headed in the right direction, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”