Jackson Holliday off to ‘rare’ start at High-A, where other top prospects have struggled – The Denver Post

In last week’s High-A Aberdeen series opener at Winston-Salem, Orioles shortstop prospect Jackson Holliday came just one cycle shy. He hit a two-run homer on his first at bat, a two-run double on his second, and a two-run triple on his third, but a fourth never came. Rain in North Carolina ended the game after five innings.

“I was a little disappointed for him,” said Aberdeen batting coach Zach Cole. “He’s like, ‘It’s okay. I’m going to do it again. We’ll get to that.’”

There’s no reason to doubt Holliday, ranked baseball’s No. 3 prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 6 prospect by Baseball America. At 19, the first pick in the 2022 draft dominates High-A, a level that many of his predecessors among the Orioles’ top prospects have struggled. A day after the rain-shortened game, he went 5-for-6 with two singles, a double and two triples, making five more runs. He finished the week batting .395 with a 1.229 OPS in 21 games for the IronBirds, with more walks than strikeouts. He joined Aberdeen having beaten .392 with a 1.190 OPS in 13 games with Low-A Delmarva. Between levels, he’s hit .394 and hit base in all 34 games this season, with a 1.214 OPS that leads all minors.

In 2021, Gunnar Henderson, whom Holliday may soon follow as baseball’s top overall prospect, went 1 for 31 in his first 11 High-A games, although he also walked 12. Last season, outfielder Colton Cowser and infielder Connor Norby, Baltimore’s first two selections in the 2021 draft, combined for a .248/.353/.417 batting line with Aberdeen; they have since strikethrough .299/.402/.525 in the upper minors. Between posting a 1.201 OPS last year with Delmarva and a 1.021 OPS so far this season with Double-A Bowie, left-handed hitter Heston Kjerstad, the No. 2 overall pick in 2020, had a .674 OPS as IronBird last summer.

Cole, in his second year as Aberdeen batting coach, said some around the game were beginning to view Low-A to High-A as the “biggest leap” in the minors, noting that pitchers from the latter tier have more refined secondary casts in terms of shapes and locations. For the Orioles’ prospects, High-A is also a level they reached in their first full professional season, a difficult adjustment in itself.

Aberdeen’s Ripken Stadium, in particular, is a hard place to reach. A Baseball America analysis found home runs were 16% less common in IronBirds home games last season than their road games; at Winston-Salem – where Holliday went 13 for 21 with two homers, three triples, three doubles, two interceptions and 14 RBIs being named South Atlantic League Player of the Week – home runs were 27% less common than elsewhere in the league.

“If you ask the players, they say it plays really big in the spreads, and you see it,” Cole said of Ripken Stadium. “To get one, you either have to pound it or sneak it into the paddocks.”

This is what made the Holliday home run hit on May 9 on his home debut with the IronBirds “a special,” Cole said, adding that Holliday hit him at 106 mph with a launch angle of about 30 degrees — a “barrel” by Statcast standards — so that the left-handed hitter was going over the wall right-center at the deepest part of the park.

“It’s rare for a bullet to go that spot for us,” Cole said. “I’ve seen a lot of those who click the fence.”

Shooting the ball in the air has been a priority in Cole’s work with Holliday, with batting practice introducing him to throwing angles and pitch shapes where it can be difficult to do so with “go to” designs. the extreme to really get him to work through this process and build the solution in his mind of how his body needs to organize itself. Cole said Holliday fully embraced the tough development approach that litters the organization, which has helped other players adopt him.

He also praised Holliday’s maturity, crediting his family with a trait that impressed the Orioles long before they made him the No. 1 pick last year. Holliday is the son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, and his uncle, grandfather, and great-uncle have all been college coaches.

“He likes the challenge,” Cole said. “He believes in himself, super confident, but he’s humble about it in the same way. He’s not just trying to let everyone know he’s the best or anything.

“It’s almost like mixing the perfect amount of it all together, and you get Jackson: confident, not letting everyone know it, very humble, but likes to attack his work, knows he has more things to work on. work and progress, and puts in it diligently every day. I can’t stress that enough, how special it is to bring all of these pieces together and, in a sense, perfectly.

Holliday isn’t the only minor league player from Baltimore with an impressive streak. Each week, The Baltimore Sun will break down five of the best players in the Orioles’ prospect ranks and hand out superlatives to those who fell short of that cut.

1. Double-A Bowie right-hander Chayce McDermott

One of two pitchers the Orioles acquired in the three-team trade that sent Trey Mancini to the Houston Astros, McDermott pitched the first five innings of a no-hitter on Friday. He threw a pair of walks in the first and fourth innings, lowering his ERA with Bowie to 2.62 after going 6.08 in six Double-A starts after the trade. Behind McDermott, Nolan Hoffman and Easton Lucas pitched two perfect innings apiece against Pittsburgh’s Double-A affiliate, combining for eight strikeouts.

2. Aberdeen High-A Infielder Maxim Wagner

Holliday wasn’t the only 2022 signing to have a big week for Aberdeen. A second-round selection from Baltimore, Wagner went 7 for 15 with a pair of doubles and walked nine – at least one in each of the five games he appeared in – for .680 on-base percentage on the week. After hitting .150 with a .506 OPS in April, he beat .309 with a 1.080 OPS in May.

3. Norfolk Triple-A right-hander Chris Vallimont

Vallimont is a rarity in Norfolk’s rotation in that he is not on Baltimore’s 40-man roster, although he was. Claimed from Minnesota last year, he spent the rest of the season on the Orioles’ 40-man roster before being waived and unclaimed in January. After striking out seven in 5 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday, the 26-year-old has a 2.97 ERA in 33 1/3 innings with Norfolk, striking out 39 and keeping his opponents at a average of 0.193.

4. Low-A Delmarva Infielder Carter Young

Another infielder in the Orioles’ 2022 draft class, Young slashed .389/.522/.500 last week for the Shorebirds, walking five times for three strikeouts. Even with the big week, Young, who received a $1.325 million bonus as Baltimore’s 17th-round pick, is batting .186 with a .583 OPS for Delmarva, batting in more than 30% of his appearances. to marble.

5. Double-A Bowie right-hander Justin Armbruester

In 11 innings over two starts last week, Armbruester allowed one earned run and under a base runner one inning. In his first outing, he had a shutout in the sixth before a two-out error preceded a home run, but he finished the frame to complete six innings for only the second time as a pro. He then allowed one run over five innings on Sunday, leaving the 2021 Round 12 ERA through eight starts at 1.58.

The best prospect not presented so far

With Colton Cowser sitting out last week due to a left quad injury that put him on Triple-A injured reserve, that space belongs to southpaw DL Hall. On Tuesday for Norfolk, he worked just three innings, part of the Orioles’ plan to build strength after missing much of spring training with a back injury. In Hall’s only major league outing this year, his fastball averaged 93.2 mph, 3 mph below the hardness he typically threw during his stint with the Orioles in 2022.

International acquisition of the week

Working in relief Wednesday, 20-year-old right-hander Juan De Los Santos went five hitless innings for Delmarva, striking out six while hitting two batters and walking another. A native of the Dominican Republic, De Los Santos was among the players the Orioles signed in early 2019 as the new front office looked to use what was left of the organization’s international bonus pool. In his second season with the Shorebirds, De Los Santos has a 5.86 ERA, although half of the earned runs he allowed came in a single outing. In his other six, his ERA was 3.24.

It’s time to say hello…

Before signing with the Orioles, Holliday planned to play college for his uncle, Josh, at Oklahoma State. He is now a teammate with a right-hander who did. Jake Lyons, drafted out of OSU in the 22nd round of the 2019 draft, struck out eight of four one-run flyouts on Thursday for Aberdeen. After opening the year in the IronBirds rotation, the 24-year-old has played a massive relief role in his last four outings, with 27 strikeouts and one run allowed in 14 innings.

Bowie first baseman TT Bowens, an undrafted former free agent who hit .722 last week for the Baysox, also deserves credit.

Orioles at the Yankees

Tuesday, 7:05 p.m.


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