How the Boston Red Sox should utilize Brock Holt


The term utility player almost sounds derogatory. It’s typically reserved for bench players that aren’t quite good enough to warrant an everyday role, but whose value stems primarily from their versatility. Brock Holt deserves better than that, yet still can’t manage to shake the utility player tag.

The lone All-Star representative for the Boston Red Sox couldn’t have received higher marks for what he brought to the team this year, yet when the 2016 season begins next April you are likely to find Holt’s name missing from the lineup card. The 27-year old is capable of playing seven different positions, but the Red Sox currently have someone else’s name penciled in as the primary starter at each of them.

So how do the Red Sox find enough playing time for the man that posted a 2.6 WAR that was the 4th highest on the team this season?

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Let’s start at the hot corner. Pablo Sandoval is likely sticking around to continue as the team’s third baseman, but you can easily make a case for using Holt in a platoon situation at the position. Despite hitting from the left side, Holt hit .315 against left-handed pitching this season. Sandoval abandoned his switch-hitting ways earlier this year, but struggled against lefties regardless of the approach he took to the plate. The Panda hit a meager .197 against lefties, with his OPS dropping from .744 against right-handed pitching to .465 against lefties. The Red Sox simply can’t leave Sandoval in the lineup against left-handed pitchers if he’s going to struggle that much against them, while Holt serves as an ideal replacement. They need to do what’s best for the team and not let Sandoval’s bloated contract dictate the lineup.

Starting Holt at third base against lefties only gets him about 200 at-bats, but he’s clearly deserving of more. We certainly don’t want to count on Dustin Pedroia suffering another injury, but it’s fair to note that he has missed significant time in each of the last two seasons. Pedroia’s mentality pushes him to want to be on the field every day, but the Red Sox would be wise to give the 32-year old some additional time off throughout the season to help keep him healthy. Even if Pedroia makes it through the year without another trip to the disabled list, we should still see Holt getting some time at second base at least a few times per month.

Boston will essentially be starting three center fielders, which affords them the flexibility of shifting them around to cover for when one of them needs a day off. The Red Sox can put Holt in one of the corner outfield spots once per week by rotating off days for their starting trio. Each of those starters would only miss a game or two per month, while Holt would pick up about 100 additional at-bats.

Add it all up and we find that Holt can find his way into the lineup about 4 days a week, while accumulating close to 400 at-bats. That’s not far off the pace he set this year when he tallied 454 at-bats in 129 games.

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The Red Sox should be careful about pushing Holt’s workload much further than that, considering the second half slides he has endured in each of the last two years. While it wasn’t quite as drastic a downfall this year, his average still fell from .292 in the first half to .265 after the break and his OPS dropped from .791 to .652. Limiting his playing time throughout the year should keep him fresh so that he can remain productive down the stretch.

Injuries are bound to effect this lineup, but if any of the starters were to go down, Holt would likely be the next man up. There will be plenty of opportunities to get Holt’s bat into the lineup, so even if the Red Sox aren’t ravaged by injuries they can still carve out a significant role for him.

Holt may not be locked in at a particular position on an everyday basis, but that doesn’t diminish his value to the team. He may still be considered a utility player, but instead of treating that term as a label for players that aren’t worthy of being a regular starter, Holt may be redefining it.