You wouldn’t shuffle a winning lotto ticket into a stack. You wouldn’t throw a rare coin into a pile of loose change.

As much as the Orioles have gotten used to grooming talented prospects, they made a mistake with Jackson Holliday. They treated him like one of the rest.

That questionable decision is now being corrected. Just weeks after the club decided the No. 1 overall prospect in baseball was not ready for his major league debut, he’s been called up to join the team in Boston.

Manager Brandon Hyde said it himself in March when asked if Holliday looked like a big leaguer. “It’s hard to say he doesn’t.” That line came back to bite him when the front office sent Holliday back to the minors, even though the 20-year-old did seemingly everything the Orioles had asked of him this spring.

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If you believe Holliday benefited tremendously from two weeks of bullying Triple-A pitching — batting .333 and getting on base nearly half of his at-bats — well, shoot, I’ve got some NFTs I’d like to sell you. Holliday’s promotion is a backtrack, a recognition that he was ready to play when Baltimore’s front office said, Hold on, not so fast.

When Holliday reaches Fenway Park on Wednesday, the Orioles ought to roll out the red carpet. They should have been doing it from the start.

Every hotshot prospect surely carries around the impertinent belief that he belongs in the majors, but with Holliday it’s best described as self-assuredness. Every step of the way, he’s carried a confidence that belies his years.

When he made his debut in Aberdeen, he told the press he would try to get promoted “as fast as possible.” That night, as if to underscore his point, he knocked a homer to the deepest part of the park, which notoriously favors pitchers. He moved up with similar briskness in Bowie and Norfolk, the big league goal always in sight, rarely if ever faltering against any level of competition.

This spring, after he blasted a grand slam against the Blue Jays, I mentioned to Holliday the following morning that Statcast hadn’t been able to track his velocity — that he had, in essence, forced the computer to quit.

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He laughed, then played down what I had meant as a compliment. “All that matters is it goes over the wall, right?”

There is a natural ease to how Holliday does things, how he views challenges that make other prospects feel frustrated. It makes you remember the truth of his upbringing. He’s been doing this his whole life.

There’s holding players back for their own good. But then there’s standing in the way of the future.

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Because the Orioles’ farm system bounty spilleth over, and because they’ve overseen the development of everyday players such as Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman, Mike Elias and his front office have earned faith to manage their talent as they see fit. Even as the talent pipeline strains with young players who would be jewels in other organizations — Coby Mayo, Heston Kjerstad, Connor Norby and Kyle Stowers among them — they’ve been kept at bay, and fans are largely content with that strategy. Elias has also rewarded that faith, swinging a deal for ace Corbin Burnes that hardly made a dent in the stash.

But Holliday is — and should be — different. We’ve seen enough to know he’s as good or better as players on the 40-man now. As such, it never made sense to hold him back once he proved he could hang this spring. The justifications were weak. Holliday was sent down to face left-handed pitching, even though few strong lefties stay down at that level for long. His learning curve for second base was an issue created by the Orioles, who largely played him at shortstop last season in his ascent.

But the biggest indictment of the decision had little to do with Holliday. The players standing in his way on the big league roster have been incredibly underwhelming. Ramon Urias is just 2-for-22, while Tony Kemp has yet to record a hit with just one walk. Any fan in the know would watch those two underperform at the plate and wonder: What would Jackson do in his place?

The Orioles also faced blowback unlike what they might see from their other prospects because of Holliday’s MLB vet dad. When his son was sent down, Matt Holliday went on sports talk radio to imply (but carefully never say outright) that the team’s concern over his service time was a factor. It was a savvy agitation by the Holliday family. They’re no rubes in the baseball business.

One of the most arresting details of Jackson Holliday’s call-up is the timing. After Wednesday, Holliday may not have qualified for a full year of MLB service, potentially pushing back his free agency until 2030. If nothing else, it’s a show of good faith from the front office that it’s not trying to hold Holliday back to keep him under team control. This is, after all, the presumptive second baseman for the rest of the decade. It’s important to set the right tone for a long-term relationship.

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But all of that is secondary to the biggest reason to call up Holliday. For the 6-4 Orioles scuffling in baseball’s toughest division, the future can finally start. While they’ve had a tremendous run of holding the No. 1 prospect for several years, there’s a reason it’s best not to make such special players wait.

Baltimore is trying to win games now, and to do it the Orioles need the best players they can muster. By bringing up Holliday, they’ve put their farm system’s crown jewel in the spotlight, where everyone can see it shine.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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