Orioles agree to terms with first overall pick Jackson Holliday; record deal pending physical

The Orioles have reached an agreement with first overall draft pick Jackson Holliday, pending a physical, for $8.19 million, a source with direct knowledge of the situation told The Baltimore Sun.

The bonus for Holliday, a high school shortstop from Oklahoma and the son of former Major League Baseball All-Star Matt Holliday, is a record for a high school draft pick and narrowly edges the bonus top selection Adley Rutschman received in 2019 for the largest in team history.

The slot value for the first overall pick was $8,846,900, so Holliday’s agreed upon deal is slightly lower. The Orioles’ policy is to not comment on deals until they are official.

Holliday is the second top pick the Orioles have made under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias and the third in the franchise’s history. The signing bonus the Arizona Diamondbacks agreed to with outfielder Druw Jones, the second pick in the draft, was $8.189 million, according to multiple reports. That broke the previous record for a high school draft pick, set in 2019 by shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. of the Kansas City Royals.

Holliday was considered the third-best prospect in the draft by Baseball America and the second according to MLB Pipeline. The Orioles passed on Jones, an outfielder from Georgia and the son of former MLB All-Star Andruw Jones, and made Holliday the first high school position player Baltimore has chosen with its first pick since infielder Manny Machado in 2010.

“It’s hard to explain what it means,” Holliday said Sunday night. “It’s like a video game, honestly. Every video game you play, you’re the first pick, so that’s kind of what it felt like. Something that I’ll never forget, and it’s a true honor.

“I want to honor the Orioles for selecting me and I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it to the major leagues and have a great career for them and for their fans.”

Elias noted how a shortstop is never blocked on their path to the majors. Even with several other highly ranked infield prospects in the Orioles’ pipeline already — including 21-year-old Gunnar Henderson with Triple-A Norfolk — Elias expects Holliday to play shortstop in the big leagues. Wherever he plays in the field, Holliday’s bat should improve and make him a middle-of-the-order hitter.

During his 40-game senior season at Stillwater High School, Holliday hit .685 with a .749 on-base percentage and 1.392 slugging percentage. He hit 17 homers as part of his 52 extra-base hits and added 30 steals. Jackson’s 89 hits also broke a national single-season high school record that belonged to current Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto.

“The upside for him is enormous,” Elias said Sunday. “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.”

The Orioles — and the rest of the league — didn’t realize Holliday would rise to the level of a No. 1 pick until relatively late in the process. An arduous training regimen with his dad, Matt, helped springboard Holliday’s senior-year success. And as Holliday put up gaudy numbers, Orioles area scouts Ken Guthrie and Jim Richardson made trips to watch him play before Elias joined, heading to Stillwater for three games and a workout.

While Elias said a week before the draft that there still wasn’t a full consensus among the organization regarding which player to select, he received as close to one by the time the draft came around.

“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 deemed worthy of selecting.”

The Orioles have a total bonus pool of nearly $17 million, a major league record, and players have until Aug. 1 to sign.

Holliday was committed to Oklahoma State, where his uncle, Josh, is the coach, but there was little doubt he would join Baltimore’s organization. Despite the young star entering the draft as a high schooler — Elias has frequently favored college bats in higher rounds during his tenure in Baltimore — the club expects Holliday’s path to the majors to go smoothly.

“I’ve seen high school picks that move just as fast, if not faster, than college players. It just depends. Everybody’s different,” Elias said. “But this was the prospect that we wanted to add to our pipeline.”

The deal was first reported by MLB insider Jon Heyman.