The rapid rise of baseball’s top prospect, plus a Cinderella to love


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Good morning! Yes, people asked Travis Kelce about Taylor Swift last night.

Futurology: Say hello to Jackson Holliday

As we wrote yesterday, Keith Law’s Top 100 prospects list for 2024 — a permanent tab around these parts — made its debut yesterday. Books could be written about the insights involved. But there are more immediate questions to answer. 

What’s the scoop on the No. 1 overall prospect, Baltimore’s Jackson Holliday? Who else should I watch for this year, at both the major- and minor-league levels? Which teams have rich farm systems set up for big trades? I went to Keith himself for more: 

I’m compelled by Holliday’s ascent, detailed in your rankings as going “from ‘maybe he’s a first-rounder’ in the fall of 2021, his senior year of high school, to ‘oh my God he’s the best prospect in baseball’ by May of 2023.” How would you describe him to a layperson in one sentence?
Keith: He’s a complete player at an unusually young age, with the ability to hit, run, hit for power and play above-average defense at shortstop.

Speaking of the Orioles: Would their farm system still be top-three (last year’s rankings) on an updated list? Who else is in the best shape?
Keith: I haven’t finished my farm system rankings, but the Orioles will be very high even after graduating a few guys (Gunnar Henderson, Jordan Westburg) and trading Joey Ortiz. The Brewers and Diamondbacks have very strong farm systems, and while the Dodgers’ system isn’t where it was a year ago, they do keep on finding guys.

Holliday advanced really quickly last year. Who on this list has the potential to follow a similar path up?
Keith: The two most obvious names are Max Clark (Tigers) and Walker Jenkins (Twins), both top-five picks in last July’s draft who could move up very quickly if they continue to hit against pro pitching — the biggest question with nearly all high school position player prospects is the hit tool, because in school, they hit with metal and often face a low caliber of competition. Going further down the list, Roderick Arias (Yankees) will probably move to full-season ball this year, and if he keeps making hard contact, he’ll make a leap.

Make sure to see the full list here, and don’t miss his newly published list of the 10 prospects who just missed the Top 100, out today.

News to Know

The Royals make a splash
Big baseball day over here. The Royals signed star shortstop Bobby Witt Jr. to an 11-year, $288.7 million contract extension yesterday, the most lucrative deal in franchise history. It includes options to raise that number to $377.7 million, too. Add the 23-year-old Witt to the growing list of young stars signing big-money contracts while still in arbitration years. Ken Rosenthal writes that this deal can — and should — push more small-market teams to spend this kind of money. Tyler Kepner, meanwhile, says the Royals can actually “dream a bit” now.

Birds in Brazil
The Philadelphia Eagles will “host” the NFL’s first-ever game in South America, the NFL announced, in São Paulo against a team to be named later. The game will be played on the Friday of the 2024 season’s opening weekend. Philly is one of five designated teams to play international games next season.

A college union? Maybe
The National Labor Relations Board ruled yesterday that Dartmouth’s men’s basketball players are employees of the university and can form a union, approving a motion filed in September. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this at the college level, though Northwestern football players’ effort to unionize in 2014 ended up failing on appeal. The atmosphere is different in college sports today though, and while this ruling doesn’t apply to all college athletes, it could still set off a chain reaction. Keep an eye on this.

More news

Brackets: We’re loco for the Lobos

Want a team to root for in the upcoming men’s March Madness? Look no further than Albuquerque, New Mexico, a town that might house America’s most interesting team. 

Brian Hamilton spent a week with the New Mexico Lobos, who are ranked No. 25 this week and sit squarely on the inside edge of the bubble. Brian came away with a wonderful story. The roster alone feels worth a movie pitch: 

  • Jamal Mashburn Jr., son of the former Kentucky and NBA star
  • Jaelen House, son of former NBA champ Eddie House
  • Nelly Junior Joseph, a Nigerian center who nearly didn’t make it to the U.S. in time for the season
  • Jemarl Baker Jr., a 25-year-old still playing college basketball
  • Tru Washington, the freshman whose nephew is Bucks center TyTy Washington

And the coach? Richard Pitino, son of Rick. What a crew. As Brian’s story details, this team is full of personality in a place desperate for basketball success. The description of New Mexico’s recent blowout win over last year’s national runner-up, San Diego State, made me want to go to a game at “The Pit.” 

Read the full story to fall in love with the Lobos. I’m penciling them in for at least one NCAA tournament win.

Watch This Game

NHL: Oilers at Golden Knights
10 p.m. ET on ESPN+
These division rivals are within five points of each other as the NHL’s second half heats up. Both are squarely in the playoff race according to our current projections, so this is a good game and some possible data for further down the road. 

NBA: Bucks at Suns
10 p.m. ET on TNT
Doc Rivers is 1-3 as Bucks coach but will somehow still coach the All-Star Game. What a world. I’m more interested in seeing how a group newly focused on defense handles the Suns’ terrifying trio of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal.

Pulse Picks

There are no stop signs in Landsbro, Sweden, a quaint village of about 1,500 people. So how did local product Erik Karlsson make it to the top of the hockey world? Jonas Siegel traveled to Landsbro to find out. Make time for this one today

Ben Standig and Dianna Russini have a detailed play-by-play of how Washington landed on Dan Quinn as head coach. They offer clarity on how talks broke down with both Ben Johnson and Mike Macdonald, with a cameo from Bill Belichick in there, too. 

If you want to go all Charlie Day-with-a-pinboard today, read Max Olson’s fantastic deep dive into the dizzying college QB transfer portal market, where USC is just steps from Holy Cross. 

Jay King perfectly captured an emotional Sunday night in Boston, when Marcus Smart returned as a visitor to TD Garden. It’s easy to be cynical in today’s news cycle, but this kind of connection between a player and city is undeniably good. 

Don’t miss our tracker of who will be doing what in the upcoming NBA All-Star competitions. Cannot wait for Steph vs. Sabrina. 

I thought Hugh Kellenberger’s honest breakdown of LIV Golf’s biggest event to date was really insightful. At this point, it’s hard to dismiss the rogue tour.

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(Photo: Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

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