Could the Orioles really break camp without Jackson Holliday on the Opening Day roster?

The Orioles are going to have to make a decision on Jackson Holliday's immediate future very, very soon.

Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

The Baltimore Orioles have so many young players that have fans excited. Just on the big league roster alone, Baltimore has Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, Grayson Rodriguez, Colton Cowser, and Heston Kjerstad, who all have the talent to be "face of the franchise" type players, even if it is unlikely that all of them get to that lofty position. However, the Orioles have even more help coming from the minor leagues, with Jackson Holliday leading the charge.

The former first overall pick in the 2022 draft quickly established himself as one of the best prospects in baseball right after getting drafted. After posting a .911 OPS in the first 20 games his played as a pro, Holliday followed that up with a stellar 2023 season where he slashed .323/.442/.499 with 12 homers and 24 stolen bases while making it all the way to Triple-A.

Coming into spring training this year, many just assumed that Holliday would make the team out of camp to bolster the Orioles' lineup and infield. However, there appear to be a number of factors that the Orioles are considering that could lead them to keep Holliday down in the minors a bit longer.

The Orioles may be good enough that they can wait on promoting Holliday

Based purely on merit and performance, Holliday deserves an Opening Day roster spot. He absolutely destroyed the minors last year and, in spring training, he has posted a .957 OPS with five extra base hits and a couple of steals in his first 10 games of work. Unfortunately, the decision to add Holliday to the big league roster is far more complicated than just "is he good enough?".

First, there is the consideration as to whether or not he is ready for the big leagues. The numbers suggest that he is, but we have to remember that the guy is just 20 years old with just 145 games above high school under his belt. Ideally, Holliday getting more reps against big-league quality left-handers, as well as more time playing second base while not under the bright lights of the regular season, could have a lot of value for him in the long-term. The last thing the Orioles want to do is cause Holliday's development to regress by being too hasty.

Then, of course, there are the service time considerations. If the Orioles wait until later in the season to call Holliday up, they will be able to squeeze another year of service time out of him. Unless the Orioles' new owners care significantly more about the short-term than the Angelos family and are willing to significantly increase payroll, pushing Holliday's arbitration and free agency further down the road is very much in play, especially since Baltimore is going to be very good even without him on the field.

Right now, it does appear as though Holliday's chances of making the Opening Day roster are pretty good. While the service time stuff is very real, the benefits there are offset by the rule under the new CBA that incentivizes teams for promoting prospects with additional draft picks. If Baltimore adds Holliday now and finishes high in the year ending awards races, the Orioles would get an additional draft pick, which could end up being more valuable than the cash they would save by keeping him down.

Either way, Orioles fans won't have to wait long to see Holliday in the big leagues if he keeps this pace up.

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