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The Baltimore Orioles reassigned middle infielder Jackson Holliday to the minors on Friday, ending the possibility of him opening the season with the big-league team. Top baseball operations executive Mike Elias had declared over the winter that there was a "very strong possibility" Holliday would break camp at the game's highest level.

Holliday, 20, is considered by CBS Sports to be the No. 1 prospect in the game because of his advanced offensive game and his likelihood of remaining up the middle. He performed well this spring statistically, hitting .311/.354/.600 with two home runs and two stolen bases in 15 games. Holliday did post an ugly strikeout-to-walk ratio, though, punching out 15 times against just three walks in 48 plate appearances.

After sending Holliday to the minors on Friday, Elias offered a lengthy explanation to reporters about the decision. Jacob Calvin Meyer of the Baltimore Sun transcribed the entire thing and noted that the word count exceeded 750. Long answer made short: Elias declared Holliday to be "very, very close," but said that his lack of repetitions against good southpaws and defensive reps at second base fueled the decision to demote him.

"Because of how fast Jackson's moved and his lack of professional experience -- I think he's only played like 18 games in Triple-A, in particular -- he hasn't faced a ton of major league-quality, or even Triple-A-quality, left-handed pitching," Elias told Meyer. "And that's something that's going to be thrust in his face when he's in the American League East, whether that's as a starter or the reliever they bring in to match-up against him in the seventh inning." 

To Elias' points: Holliday faced lefties in just 124 of his trips to the plate last season. His .776 OPS against them was more than 200 points inferior to his mark against righties. Meanwhile, Holliday had made just 25 appearances at second base entering the spring. The Orioles, flooded with quality infield options, can make do with their other options while Holliday gains more experience at the Triple-A level.

Perhaps this was foreseeable in some ways. As CBS Sports had noted before, the Orioles' track record with recent top positional prospects didn't support the idea that they'd carry Holliday on the Opening Day roster. Still, the decision to demote Holliday does cut against the Prospect Promotion Incentive system installed in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The PPI, designed to minimize blatant service-time manipulation, grants a draft pick to teams who win a Rookie of the Year Award after amassing a full year of service time. 

Baseball America's Matt Eddy explained the PPI requirements last year:

(1) He must appear on a preseason Top 100 Prospects ranking by at least two of Baseball America, ESPN or MLB Pipeline.

(2) He must be rookie-eligible and must have fewer than 60 days of prior MLB service.

(3) He must accrue one year of MLB service as a rookie.

Holliday met the first two requirements, meaning the Orioles had extra reason to give him a chance to meet the third. For them to choose against it means they must truly believe that he needs more time in the minors. (That, or, we suppose, they just don't care about the draft pick.) Whatever the case, you should still expect to see Holliday make his big-league debut sometime this season.

The Orioles will begin their season on March 28 against the Los Angeles Angels.