As a concussed Brock Holt approaches the close of his first full season with the Red Sox, he boasts a pretty strong resume that includes a .281 average, 12 steals and 23 doubles in 449 at-bats, defensive contributions at seven different positions, and a soft spot in the hearts of Red Sox Nation.
But does he have a future with the team?
In a league where power is a valued commodity, Holt has just four homers and 29 RBI (actually not too shabby for 2014 Red Sox). He’s also past the point of being a prospect.
Still, there is plenty of value in Brock Holt. He could be the second coming of Jeff Frye for the Sox. And that’s not a bad thing.
It’s a lazy comparison, really. We’re talking about two diminutive utility men. But it’s hard to look past the similarities.
With few exceptions, the game tends to doubt tiny gap-hitters. It starts with the MLB Draft, continues through the Minor Leagues, with teams reluctant to bring a little guy to the big club until he has thoroughly exceeded all expectations, and persists over the course of a career, as guys like Holt and Frye jump from team to team. Holt is on his second club at age 27. Frye played for four teams in his nine-year career, but landed in Boston for four of them (not including a season lost to injury in 1998).
Second base was a revolving door for the Red Sox after Marty Barrett, Jody Reed and Scott Fletcher provided a relative sense of stability in the late-80’s and early 90’s. One-year wonders included Luis Alicea (1995), Mike Benjamin (1998), Rey Sanchez (2002), Todd Walker (2003), Mark Bellhorn (2004), Tony Graffanino (2005) and Mark Loretta (2006).
During the mid-to-late 90’s, Frye held his own. Picked up off the scrap heap from Texas’ AAA affiliate, he had 79 doubles and worked 113 walks over 1,176 Boston at-bats. Frye’s average never dipped below .281 during his time in Boston, with a high of .312 in ’97. He also hit 36 doubles that year. He combined for 37 steals between ’96 and ’97 before his knee injury, and provided versatility as John Valentin bounced around the infield and eventually found himself spending more and more time on the disabled list.
Holt may never be a starter in Boston, given Pedroia’s presence at the keystone, Xander Bogaerts’ renewed stranglehold on the shortstop position, and the reluctance of clubs to install gap hitters at third base, historically a power position (why else do you think Will Middlebrooks is still getting at-bats?) The presence of a young infielder like Garin Cecchini and the versatile Mookie Betts also could be damaging to Holt’s sticking power.
But if they want him, Holt can provide value to the club for short dollars. Maybe he won’t hit .320 like earlier in the season, but he can put up Frye-like numbers while filling in at all of the infield positions and, as demonstrated in 2014, even playing the outfield.
Brock Holt did everything he was asked in 2014 and then some, even hitting leadoff. At this point, it’s hard to argue against making him a super-utility player for 2015 and beyond, if not getting an audition at the hot corner. Where Middlebrooks and Cecchini have thus far failed to thrill, Holt has shown his mettle and could be a useful commodity for the Red Sox in the future.