The similarities are unmistakable: The blond hair flowing from the back of a helmet that has trouble staying on. The boyish face underneath it. The left-handed swing belonging to one of baseball’s premier young shortstops.
In Jackson Holliday’s first major league spring training with the Orioles, he’s sure looking a lot like Gunnar Henderson, baseball’s top overall prospect and a favorite to win American League Rookie of the Year.
“He wants to be the best player and wants to make it to the big leagues; I feel like I was the same way,” Henderson said. “I can really put myself in his shoes. I can provide that experience for him in any way that I can help.
“He doesn’t really look like he needs any right now.”
By this time next year, Holliday, 19, could be in Henderson’s place as the game’s No. 1 prospect. Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias called Henderson, 21, who was Baltimore’s second-round pick in 2019, a “flagship” of the team’s player development program as he skyrocketed to the top of prospect lists.
As the first overall pick in last year’s draft, Holliday won’t have to take as far of a leap to reach that status — Baseball America, MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus all rank him among the game’s top 15 prospects 20 games into his career — but he’s spent the spring showing his ability to make it, regardless.
He’s held his own and fit in not only with clubhouse games of table tennis and player matchups of mini golf, but also at the field. In his first spring at-bat, Holliday laced a double to right-center field, losing his helmet as he approached second in an echo of Henderson’s falling off amid the swing that produced a home run in his major league debut. Over his past two games, Holliday has reached base three times without making an out, and in his 11 exhibition plate appearances, he’s put up a slash line of .375/.546/.500.
“I feel like this is somewhere that I belong, and that’s that,” Holliday said. “I don’t feel like a 19-year-old.”
That mindset has been evident to those around him.
“I would not be able to handle what he’s handling right now at 19 years old,” fellow infield prospect Jordan Westburg said. “He’s mature beyond his years. … I know if I was 19, I’d be a little intimidated in this clubhouse. I’m 24, and I’m still …read more
Source:: The Mercury News