Saturday, April 13, 2024

Baltimore Orioles top prospects 2024: Jackson Holliday, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, leads stacked system

Major League Baseball’s offseason is underway, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You’re either selling wins or you’re selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team’s farm system.

Of course, that doesn’t mean every team has an equally good farm system — some, as you’ll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next couple of months examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define “prospects” as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2024 season, so if a young player is missing that’s likely why. 

These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There’s also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it’s fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future. You can check out our winter top 25 list by clicking here.

With that in mind, let’s get to it by dissecting the Baltimore Orioles.

1. Jackson Holliday, SS (20 years old)

  • Top 25 ranking: No. 1
  • The short version: Precocious lefty-swinging shortstop with superstar potential.
  • MLB ETA: Spring 2024

Holliday should not be able to exceed expectations. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft, and his father Matt was a seven-time All-Star. He should be burdened with unobtainable forecasts. Yet Holliday has consistently bested the best-case scenario since his high school senior year. In his first full professional season, he blazed through three levels, closing out with an 18-game stint in Triple-A. There, he batted .267/.396/.400 with a 90 mph average exit velocity. He was 19 years old. All of Holliday’s indicators, statistical and otherwise, are neon green. He has every tool and intangible necessary to become a star, even if he might require some time to upscale his power from the “gap” to the “over-the-fence” variety. (He needs to add more muscle and loft.) Given his demonstrated ability to overachieve, it would be foolish to bet against him making an impact at the big-league level in 2024. There is, in our estimation, simply no better prospect in the minor leagues.

2. Colton Cowser, OF (24 years old)

  • Top 25 ranking: No. 21
  • The short version: Quality of contact and patience should lead to brighter days.
  • MLB ETA: Debuted in 2023

It’s fair to write that Cowser’s introduction to the majors didn’t go as planned. He hit just .115/.286/.148 and struck out in 28.6% of his 77 plate appearances. We feel confident that better times await. Cowser has demonstrated his feel for the strike zone and quality contact dating back to his collegiate days. Indeed, his average exit velocity in Triple-A was over 90 mph, albeit with an average launch angle in the single digits. Cowser’s game does feature a lot of swing and miss on non-fastballs, and that, plus his frequent deep counts, will continue to make him strikeout prone. We think he has enough else working in his favor that we’re willing to see if he can make the necessary adjustments. 

3. Coby Mayo, 3B (22 years old)

  • Top 25 ranking: No. 22
  • The short version: Strength and patience obscure positional questions.
  • MLB ETA: Spring 2024

Mayo lacks a picturesque swing, but his operation certainly works for him. He’s hit at every level to date, including at Triple-A, where more than 52% of his batted balls had an exit velocity of at least 95 mph. Mayo’s maximum exit velocity (112 mph), meanwhile, was right in line with the likes of Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez. He’s not just a grip-and-rip hitter, either. He doesn’t often go fishing, and his in-zone contact rate stayed above 80%. The Orioles’ abundance of better-fielding young infielders could force Mayo down the defensive spectrum, perhaps to first base or right field. His run-producing capacity should make him a notable part of their lineup anyway.

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