Age: 18 (4 December 2003)
Weight: 175 lbs.
School: Stillwater HS (FL)
Commitment: Oklahoma State
Hit: 60 | Power: 55 | Run: 60 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 60
The son of seven-time all-star Matt Holliday, Jackson is one of two prep stars positioned to go in the top-five selections of this year’s draft with a significant, borderline Hall of Fame pedigree. He currently is committed to attend Oklahoma State, where he would play for his uncle and be coached in his play by his father. While he will not command full freight at 1-2, he will not come cheap, and luring him away from his special situation at Oklahoma State means whoever drafts him had best come ready to pay up.
No player in the projected top-10 has experienced more helium than Holliday. Only a few months ago, Holliday was a promising prep candidate ranked somewhere in the top-20. Now, Holliday is a legitimate 1-1 candidate, and not just because of his pedigree (though that clearly helps).
Unlike Temarr Johnson, Holliday does not posses a single carrying tool. Instead, Holliday relies on doing everything in an above average manner - at worst. At best, he possesses at least one plus tool, his hit too. As the hit tool is the hardest and most fickle to develop, this bodes well for Holliday. As Gatorade’s Oklahoma prep player of the year, he broke the national high school record for hits in a season with 89 in 41 games while batting .685/.749/1.392, which outpaced former Oklahoma prep, J.T. Realmuto of Albert High in Midwest City.
Between his junior and senior years in high school, Holliday bulked up, adding roughly ten pounds of muscle, a development which has paid off in spades. Prior to the most recent season, Holliday was known mostly for being a high OBP player, thanks largely to taking a ridiculous number of walks. In the last calendar year though, Holliday has added significant power to his game, a major reason for his rapid ascension up the prospect rankings. In terms of hitting profile, Holliday employs an all fields approach highlighted by a fluid and easy path through the zone with natural feel for the barrel and easy bat speed. Holliday possesses a free and easy, loose stroke and whip-like wrists and hands hands which allow him to produce hard line drive contact all over the field. He loads well and his hands drive straight to the ball with some natural loft. He doesn’t have a leg kick, instead turning his front leg allowing him to close his hips before he explodes through the zone.
Usually, bulking up comes with a slight decrease in speed. This has not been the case with Holliday. Already a plus runner before adding muscle, Holliday’s workout regimen not only added muscle, but it helped him to become even faster. Holliday is now a borderline plus-plus runner.
Defensively, Holliday is a smooth and fluent defender who has all the tools to stick at short. Like his father, he has a strong throwing arm, one strong enough to allow him to play anywhere on the field (though not as strong as the mini-cannon his younger brother Ethan has at third base for Stillwater). Of all the names at the top of the mock drafts, Holliday has far and away the best chance to stick at short.
As one might expect from being the son of a seven-time all-star and the nephew of an accomplished NCAA Division I baseball coach, Holliday’s baseball IQ is off the charts. This has shown up repeatedly on showcases and in school, especially when playing the field, where he possesses something of a sixth sense. Clearly the game comes instinctually to him, which has helped him develop all his tools to their best potential. He is infinitely coachable and a devoted student of the game. All of these factors go into giving him what would be a 70-80 grade makeup as a prep prospect.
Comps: Given that power-hitting shortstops are a newer part of MLB, the comp pool is a bit shallow. A solid comp for Holliday though, is Trevor Story. Both are plus defenders with strong arms that also have stolen base speed. Both hit to all fields, but are known for their ability to put the ball in seats. By the time Holliday finishes filling out, he will also be of a similar build to Trevor Story. Where the comp breaks down some is with plate discipline. Holliday has a very keen eye at the plate, which led to a significant walk rate on the ciruit.
Summation: Of the prep talents in this year’s draft, Holliday probably has the third-highest ceiling. As part of that ceiling, he is far and away the most likely top-10 prospect to stick at shortstop long-term. The 18-year-old has great makeup, a superior baseball IQ, and all the tools to be a regular all-star at the top level. While he will be a difficult sign for most teams, the Diamondbacks possess a large enough slot bonus by virtue of selecting second, that they should have no issues at all locking Holliday up if they choose to select him.