PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 4: Brock Holt #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after hitting a double in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during the game on September 4, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Rookie Review: Brock Holt, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates promoted infielder Brock Holt for the September stretch run, and he's off to a great start so far, 6-for-13 (.462) with a double and an RBI in his first four major league games. Holt wasn't a hot prospect pre-season, but he had an impressive campaign in the minors this year, deserved his big league promotion, and has one of the best baseball names in the business (never underestimate the power of a good name). Let's take a look.
Brock Wyatt Holt was born June 11, 1988 in Stephenville, Texas. A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, he's listed at 5-10, 170. After two years of junior college baseball for Navarro JC, he had an impressive junior season for Rice University in 2009, hitting .348/.427/.560 with 12 homers, 11 steals, 34 walks, and 35 strikeouts in 250 at-bats. Despite his track record, he got lost in the shuffle on draft day, scouts feeling that his tools were so-so and that he was too small to project big success at higher levels. He fell to the ninth round, where the Pirates signed him for $125,000.
He hit well in his pro debut, batting .299/.361/.449 for State College in the New York-Penn League. Considering his college and short-season success, scouting reports were surprisingly muted. I gave him a Grade C entering 2010, projecting him as a utility infielder but noting that he "had a chance to get beyond that" if his hitting held up at higher levels.
Holt got off to an outstanding start in 2010, hitting .351/.410/.438 in 47 games for High-A Bradenton in the Florida State League. Unfortunatley, just as the Holt Bandwagon was gaining momentum, he tore a meniscus in a June infield collision and missed the rest of the year. I still boosted his grade up to a C+ and rated him a significant sleeper entering 2011.
Moved up to Double-A Altoona, he wasn't bad by any means, but didn't set the league alight either, hitting .288/.356/.387 with 18 steals, 50 walks, and 85 strikeouts in 511 at-bats. He hit 30 doubles, but knocked just one home run. On the negative side, his platoon splits were very sharp, and scouts remained quite "blah" about his tools. He slipped back to a Grade C for me.
Holt returned to Altoona for 2012 and heated back up, batting .322/.389/.432 with 24 doubles, 40 walks, and 51 strikeouts in 382 at-bats, winning the Eastern League batting hunt. Promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis for August, he got even hotter, batting .432/.476/.537 with nine walks and nine strikeouts in 95 at-bats. Overall, he hit .344/.406/.453 this year in the high minors, with 49 walks and 60 strikeouts in 477 at-bats.
Brock will never be a home run hitter (he hit just three this year) and his gaudy batting average this season included at least some BABIP luck. However, his track record as an effective line drive provider is hard to deny, going back to junior college. He makes contact, has a grasp of the strike zone, and has enough pop to the gaps to keep the pitcher honest.
Although he played shortstop this year for Altoona, his defensive tools fit best at second base due to average range, speed, and arm strength. He's developed into a very reliable defender at second, and he won't kill you at shortstop if you have to play him there in the short run.
Overall, Holt still profiles best as a utility player with a solid bat, but some guys with fewer skills have made careers as regular second basemen. I'd give him at least a Grade C+ at this point, and perhaps a B- as I collate end-of-season information.