Jackson Holliday Demotion the Wrong Call

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Ryan Nickerson

On April 10, 2024, Orioles fans were thrilled to see top prospect and the first overall pick in the 2022 MLB draft Jackson Holliday debut. But in just 16 days that excitement went to frustration as he went 2 for 34 at the plate. It started against the Red Sox at Fenway where he showed some promise despite having no hits with four at bats, he picked up an RBI which left the fanbase hopeful.

However, things started to go amiss as early as his third game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was Holliday’s first game at Camden Yards. I was lucky enough to attend but the excitement turned into disappointment as the Orioles were down big after giving up a lot of runs.

Nevertheless, the crowd while disappointed did not seem to care. Everyone wanted to see the same thing and that was Jackson Holliday’s first hit. At this point, he was 0-8 and would have a chance to get his first hit in his first game in front of Orioles fans. However, he struck out and then struck out again to which a fan above me yelled, “Go back to Norfolk” which for context is the minor league affiliate of the Orioles. Then in his final at bat he struck out again and a crowd of people around me left disappointed and frustrated with the game but more importantly Holliday’s performance.

Things looked up for a bit when he got his first hit the very next game, but he then went into a drought where he had no hits in 15 at bats. Then in the final game Holliday added another hit in four at bats but it was not enough as the Orioles lost, and Holliday was sent down to the minor leagues.

It seems cut and dry right? Holliday is only twenty years old and only had 2 hits in 10 games so why is the decision to send him down wrong?

Well, mainly because of who they brought up to replace him, Ryan McKenna. I have nothing against McKenna as a person but as a player there is nothing special about him. Holliday had just got a hit, something he could have potentially built off of but instead he got sent down for a guy who has a batting average of .223 and only has 6 home runs in 448 at bats.

It is not like McKenna was doing outstanding in the minors either as he batted .244 to start the season. Holliday is not even being replaced by a good batter. It would have just been better to stick with him.

Also, when you look at baseball history, rookie players tend to struggle at first. Orioles’ legend Cal Ripken Jr. went 3 for 32 at the plate in his first fourteen games and he was not sent down (to the minor leagues). He was allowed to blossom into the legend we know him as today. That is not even the only example as recently as 2022 then rookie Adley Rutschman was 7 for 51 in his first thirteen games and he too was afforded the opportunity to adapt and become the all-star we know him to be today.

Now to give the Orioles some credit, a comparable situation happened last season albeit under different circumstances. Colton Cowser had been called up (from the minor leagues) due to some injuries in the roster. He struggled, going 7 for 61 and he was sent down once more players became healthy. Cowser made the opening roster for this season (2024) and has started off with a high .303 batting average and a good early case for American League Rookie of the Year. So perhaps it can work out and Holliday can come back better than ever. However, the damage of being sent down mentally can take its toll on a young player.

Holliday may have been affected by this toll as in his first 8 at bats he had no hits in the minors, but it seems he may be on the upside as in his last game of writing he had 3 hits in 6 at bats.

In closing, the risk of sending Holliday down may pay off but it seems to be an unnecessary risk given the history of rookie players and the lack of talent replacing him. For Orioles fans, we know we haven’t seen the last of Jackson Holliday.

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