Orioles select Oklahoma high school infielder Jackson Holliday with first overall pick in 2022 MLB draft

Orioles select high school infielder Jackson Holliday, son of former All-Star, with first overall pick in 2022 MLB draft

When the Orioles last had the MLB draft’s first pick, they selected a player viewed as the top prospect available and one who became a guiding force in their rebuild in catcher Adley Rutschman.

In taking Oklahoma high school shortstop Jackson Holliday in that spot three years later Sunday night, Baltimore passed on this year’s perceived top player. The organization believes it got a player who can be just as much of a difference-maker as Rutschman, regardless.

“It’s an absolute honor to be the No. 1 pick and join such great players in that position,” Holliday said on MLB Network. “I’m really, really excited.”

Holliday, the son of seven-time All-Star Matt Holliday, was considered one of the draft’s top prospects, ranked second by MLB Pipeline and third by Baseball America. But in drafting him, the Orioles avoided players ranked ahead of him, including Georgia high school outfielder Druw Jones, who both publications had as the class’s best player. Jones went second overall to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

“I’m just really happy for Jackson,” Matt Holliday said on MLB Network. “This has been his dream for as long as he’s been old enough to have this goal.”

Holliday becomes the first high school position player chosen with Baltimore’s first pick since Manny Machado in 2010. A left-handed hitter, he showed improved strength and speed in his senior season at Stillwater High School. Traceable to his father’s influence, Holliday has a tremendous approach at the plate and strong instincts as he set a national record for hits in a season, with hopes that he inherited power from his dad, as well.

In his 40-game senior season, Holliday, 18, hit .685 with a .749 on-base percentage and 1.392 slugging percentage thanks to 52 extra-base hits, including 17 home runs, and added 30 steals. Orioles executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias said Holliday emerged as a possible candidate for the No. 1 pick relatively late. The club did not have him in consideration for the selection during staff meetings in the winter, but his improvements from then have the organization seeing him as a potential fixture.

“The upside for him is enormous,” Elias said. “It’s a potential star playing shortstop, batting in the middle of the order, doing so for a very long time. In some regard, I don’t know that the ceiling gets much higher than somebody with that profile.”

Holliday was the Orioles’ choice in a class littered with sons of former major leaguers, with the children of Andruw Jones, Carl Crawford and Lou Collier also expected to go in the first round. The Orioles chose Holliday from a group of five players that Elias, without naming them, confirmed included Jones, Florida high school outfielder Elijah Green (fifth overall to Washington) and Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee (eighth overall to Minnesota). Georgia high school second baseman Termarr Johnson, who Pittsburgh took fourth overall pick, was believed to be the fifth.

With such a large group in consideration, Elias acknowledged a week before the draft it was doubtful that all of the Orioles’ decision-makers would agree on one player. He said Sunday that Holliday received a “yes” vote from the Orioles’ decision-makers, even if some preferred another player.

“I think ‘consensus’ is the right word for it,” Elias said. “It was not unanimous. It never is. … But this was a player that anyone involved would deem worthy of selecting.”

The first overall pick has a slot value of just above $8.84 million, and it’s not clear whether taking Holliday will require the Orioles to approach that figure rather than deploying the underslot strategy they’ve used in their previous two drafts. Holliday is committed to Oklahoma State, where his uncle, Josh, leads the program, his father is an assistant, and his grandfather and great-uncle previously coached. He is also a client of mega agent Scott Boras, who represented both his father and uncle during their playing careers.

After taking college outfielders Heston Kjerstad second overall in 2020 and Colton Cowser fifth overall in 2021, the Orioles signed both to deals significantly beneath the slot values for their draft positions, enabling Baltimore to spread those savings to other prospects later in the draft. Even in receiving a then-record $8.1 million bonus, Rutschman signed under his slot value, with those savings largely devoted to second-round pick Gunnar Henderson, who has since become the Orioles’ No. 2 prospect and represented their highest-drafted high schooler before Holliday.

This year, the Orioles’ total bonus pool is nearly $17 million, trailing only the 2015 Houston Astros. Elias was Houston’s amateur scouting director then, and this marks only the third time among the nine top-five picks he’s been involved with that his team has selected a high school position player.

“We take the player that we want to take and that we want to start our draft with and that we feel is going to kick off the maximization of the draft class,” Elias said last week. “Detail beyond that is something that I don’t feel like is in the interest of the organization for me to reveal, especially this week. But rest assured that we are going into any high pick that we have with the goal of maximizing the output of that pick itself.”

Elias has had varying success with his previous three first-round picks in Baltimore. Rutschman became the top-ranked prospect in baseball, viewed as the face of the Orioles’ rebuild and a player capable of turning their tide. Baltimore has been a much more successful team since his late May promotion, completing the first half Sunday as a surprise playoff contender.

Kjerstad did not make his professional debut until two years after his selection after being diagnosed with the heart condition myocarditis following the draft and suffering a left hamstring strain this spring. He was promoted to High-A Aberdeen last week after dominating younger pitchers with Low-A Delmarva.

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