When will the Orioles call up Jackson Holliday? What to expect from debut of MLB’s top prospect in 2024

The Orioles made perhaps the most surprising decision of the offseason.

Jackson Holliday, the top prospect in baseball, has posted eye-popping numbers in spring training after tearing apart the minors in his first full pro season. Yet the Orioles decided Holliday would begin the 2024 season in Triple-A rather than on the MLB roster.

The decision stunned fans who believed the 20-year-old shortstop would be arriving in Baltimore to join the team’s youth movement.

Last year, shortstop Gunnar Henderson began the 2023 season in the majors, though he had made his MLB debut in the 2022 season. Holliday has yet to appear in an MLB game.

Holliday is the consensus No. 1 prospect in the sport. He tops the lists from MLB Pipeline, Baseball America, ESPN and The Athletic. His hit tool is widely considered to be among the best, if not the best, in the minors and he adds impressive power, above-average speed and solid defense to create a well-rounded profile that appears star-ready.

So why hasn’t Holliday been promoted, and when will he get the call up? Here’s what you need to know.

MORE: SN’s model projection for the 2024 season

When will the Orioles call up Jackson Holliday?

The Orioles have not put a specific timeline on the promotion of Holliday. General manager Mike Elias announced the organization wants to put players “in the best position for his own long-term success and for the short- and long-term success of the team and the roster that he’s on.”

“This is a 20-year-old that has played 18 games in Triple-A and is also in a position change and has not faced or had the opportunity to produce a ton against upper-level Minor League left-handed pitching in particular,” Elias said. “This is where we’ve landed for now.”

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Holliday will be shifting from shortstop, the position he has played throughout his career, to second base, where he will be unblocked at the MLB level by Henderson. 

The defensive change has merits. Henderson is a natural shortstop who played between short and third throughout his rookie season. But with Jordan Westburg and the impending arrival of Coby Mayo, the hot corner is going to be a hot spot for talent. Second base does not have as much competition.

Additionally, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal added that Ramon Urias and Jorge Mateo, both infielders, are out of options. One of those players would likely need to be sent to the minors to clear space for Holliday. That would require placing them on the waiver wire, which would then give other teams an option to claim either batter.

There’s also another consideration: service time. MLB teams have long drawn the ire of fans for manipulating service time by keeping players in the minors in an effort to either gain an extra year of team control or by pushing arbitration off for another season. If the Orioles wait until some time in late April, Baltimore will gain another year of service time to control Holliday.

And Holliday’s dad appears to understand the situation. Former MLB star Matt Holliday explained that if his son had signed an extension like Brewers’ star prospect Jackson Chourio and there was no free agency or money involved, “I think there would be a good chance for him to be on the team.”

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“But we don’t live in that world, and so, it could save them a year of him before he’s in free agency,” Holliday said, per The Baltimore Banner. “As a 20-year-old, they have a really talented roster, so I’m not going to accuse anybody of anything, but I think it’s just the idea that there is a business element to it and it’s just one of those things where it’s part of the game. If he goes out and gets first or second in Rookie of the Year, then he’ll have a chance to earn the service time back.”

MORE: Explaining MLB’s Prospect Promotion Incentive

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, Holliday can earn a year of service time if he places first or second in Rookie of the Year voting.

The Orioles could also benefit from the new system if they promote Holliday early in the season. If he earns 172 days on an active roster and wins Rookie of the Year, Baltimore could earn a draft pick after the first round, just as it did after the 2023 season when Henderson won American League Rookie of the Year.

But in order to reach 172 days, the promotion will need to happen early in the season. That means Holliday could theoretically benefit by getting the extra year of service time, negating the decision to leave him in the minors to start the season.

Holliday likely doesn’t have much time to spend in the minors to prove he’s MLB-ready. It could wind up just being a matter of time until he’s the latest star in the middle of Baltimore’s order.

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Jackson Holliday spring training

The decision to leave Holliday in the minors is a stunning one considering how well Holliday performed in spring training. He posted an eye-popping .311/.354/.600 slash line with two homers and two stolen bases, though he did strike out at 31.3 percent of the time.

And Holliday certainly passed the eye test.

Elias had suggested during the 2023 winter meetings there was a “very strong possibility” Holliday could begin the 2024 season in the majors, according to MLB Pipeline. That Holliday played so well and didn’t make the majors appear to go against what Elias had suggested in the offseason.

“He’s very, very close,” Elias said about Holliday in March. “He’s very ahead of schedule. He’s done remarkably well. We couldn’t be more excited about his future. But you’re talking about the development of a player who has the opportunity to be one of the better, if not best, players in the league.”

Jackson Holliday stats

Here’s a look at how Holliday has fared throughout his MiLB career.

Year Level PA AVG/OBP/SLG HR SB/ATT BB% K%
2022 Rk/A 90 .297/.489/.422 1 4/5 27.8% 13.3%
2023 A/A+/AA/AAA 581 .323/.442/.499 12 24/33 17.4% 20.3%
Career 671 .320/.449/.490 13 28/38 18.8% 19.4%

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