Thursday, September 6, 2012

Brock Holt

Infielder Brock Holt, 24, was quietly part of the September wave of prospects that washed into Pittsburgh last week, but with Neil Walker's balky back, he's suddenly found himself an everyday player and leadoff hitter during a playoff chase.

That's a pretty big responsibility for a little guy (5'10", 165), especially one who couldn't seem to shoulder his way past Jordy Mercer and Chase d'Arnauld in the minor league depth chart. Both were taken in higher rounds (Mercer - 3rd, d'Arnaud - 4th) a year earlier than Holt in 2008, and always seemed a page ahead of him in the Pirate blueprint.

Guess what? Mercer is planted on the Bucco bench and d'Arnaud is still playing at Indy. Holt has gone 7-for-16 (.438) with a double, three runs and three RBI in his first five major league games (four as a starter), with a walk, sac bunt and sac fly thrown in.

He was sent to Indy to take Mercer's spot before he got his ticket to Pittsburgh. In 24 games with the Tribe, he hit .432 after batting .322 at Altoona. That hot lumber him earned a spot on the Pirate roster, where he was penciled in to be a back-up infielder and pinch hitter. But Walker went down, Josh Harrison got cold, and hey - opportunity knocked (Clint Hurdle likes to play the hot hand), and Holt wasn't shy about opening the door.

Brock Wyatt Holt was born June 11, 1988 in Stephenville, Texas. He  graduated from Stephenville High School in 2006 and attended Navarro College, a JC, for two years.

From there, Holt transferred to Rice University and made a name for himself. He hit .348 with 12 HR, 67 runs, 43 RBI and 11 SB. Brock was named to the All-NCAA Regional Team and to the All-Silver Glove Trophy Series team.

Though he was a top dog in a solid program, the scouts weren't sure of his fielding and size, thinking that he may have already reached his potential ceiling. Still, an infield stick is a good thing to have, and the Bucs took him in the ninth round of the 2009 draft, signing him for $125,000 and hoping he'd become at least a bench player.

He hit .299 for State College during his rookie year. Holt really broke out next season at Bradenton, hitting .351. But his year lasted just until June 5th when he collided with 2B Adenson Chourio and tore his left meniscus, ending his sophomore campaign.

After recovering, he began at Altoona in 2011, where he was solid, hitting .288 with a .356 OBP and 30 doubles. Holt returned to the Curve to start this year, batting .322, and won the Eastern League batting crown along with being voted team MVP. He was promoted to Indy in August and went postal on AAA pitching, hitting .432.

With Walker on ice, Holt joined the big club in September and was added to the 40-man roster. Pretty solid move so far.

He's playing with a miniscule MLB sample size so far. But he does have a history of raking and has shown himself equal to his scouting report - a contact, line drive hitter who gets into hitters' counts at the plate and will take an average amount of walks (8.9% in the minors). One drawback is his splits; the LH has been spotty against southpaws (he throws righty).

You'll turn blue holding your breath waiting on a Holt homer, though he's shown enough gap power to keep the outfield from creeping in on him, averaging 30 doubles the past two seasons. And he's misplaced at leadoff, though that's been his farm team spot; he doesn't run or steal like a top-of-the-order guy, and is probably best suited for hitting second or seventh. But it's not like anyone else is claiming the spot, and getting on to set the big boys' table is skill #1.

Holt has spent a lot of his time at SS in the minors, and can probably play there in a pinch in the majors, although Clint Hurdle says that as of now, he's fourth on the depth chart at the spot. So if he's to see regular play, it's probably at second. Scouts don't miss on tools often, and his speed, range and arm are all MLB average, which have combined to keep him off the elite prospect lists.

"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," according to prospect guru John Sickels. So his role is yet to be determined; after all, there still is Neil Walker, who doesn't seem ready to pass the torch at second quite yet.

But Brock Holt has at least got his foot in the door, and is well on the way to adding his name to the mix the FO considers when the Pirates put together their 2013 roster.

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