The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster continues with a look at super utility man Brock Holt.
After all this time, it still manages to astound me how often people, informed people even, manage to forget the Boston Red Sox have Brock Holt. He was their only all star player in 2015. He hits well, he fields well, he’s worth at least 2 WAR in any position, other than pitcher/catcher and has long, golden locks that shimmer beneath helmet or cap. What’s not to be impressed by?
Yet here we are, all this discussion about what’s going to be with the 2016 Red Sox, how President of Baseball Ops Dave Dombrowski is going to fill the holes, and we’ve neglected to mention their ultimate insurance policy. I’m as guilty as any. Still it’s somewhat understandable that Holt is sidelined, after all, a comprehensive list of the Boston lineup doesn’t really show him anywhere. Yet Holt is everywhere. He’s potentially at first base, second base, third base, left field, center, right. He did them all in 2014 and all again in 2015 and he did them well. The expectation should be, and is, that the same will happen again in 2016.
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Holt fits into a category now named “super utility”, which I believe was named by a doubtless smitten fan who desired to see Holt as a Marvel comic superhero someday. Think Ben Zobrist in his prime. Today, Zobrist’s defense isn’t as capable and, at 35, his days in the outfield are beyond him. Holt however is still not 27 and, it can be argued, is likely to only get better. Still, as a super utility player, Holt is the jack and master of almost every trade in the game. Which makes him invaluable in an unusual way.
For Dombrowski, Holt’s value comes from being a safety net against the realities of the game. While it’s certainly nice to have someone with Holt’s consistency at the plate in case of a shocking, or if you’re Pablo Sandoval not quite so shocking, decline in production, the threat of injuries to the actually good players is far greater. It was for this reason Holt spent a majority of his 2015 games at second base, covering for the injured-according-to-everyone-but-himself Dustin Pedroia. What exactly does Holt bring to the table though?
First, his bat. His .280 AVG on the year for 2015 was the 4th best in the Red Sox for batters with over 200 plate appearances, increase that to 400 and it’s the 3rd best. It mirrors his .281 AVG in 2014 and shows that he has a floor of a solid hitter. Much has been made of a supposed drop-off in production in the second half of the year, as was the case in 2014, but in 2015 it never actually happened. Yes, his AVG for the second half was .265 vs .292 in the first, but careful observers will note that this was a result of one poor month (August) in which he hit only .256. In September/October, Holt hit his stride again and managed .278, far closer to his career norms.
In general, Holt is better against lefties, his .312 AVG and .807 OPS in 2015 are ahead, though not by much, of his .270 AVG and .701 OPS vs righties. Note though, wOBA is close between both at .355 vs .310. What this means is, basically Holt makes solid contact regardless, but has a bit more oomph against southpaws. That’s not going to translate to homers any time soon, he managed two the whole year, but that’s not actually part of his game. Think Zobrist again. Solid, reliable contact. Singles, doubles, occasionally triples. Sometimes all of the above, as evidenced when he hit for the cycle on June 16th at Fenway. A highlight in a particular dark part of an otherwise ”over before it started” year.
Holt, as mentioned, is a reliable hitter. His OPS is .828 with men in scoring position and he used it well to drive in 45 RBIs in 2015. Holt also has a bit of speed, with 8 stolen bases under his belt and a further he nabbed in the All Star Game. Don’t pretend like you weren’t proud.
As for Holt’s defense, it doesn’t let him or the Red Sox down. In 53 games in the outfield in 2015 he had a perfect, 1.000, fielding percentage having made as many errors in Major League Baseball as you and I have at the position. This in at a time when Boston’s pitchers were tight-rope walking the line between dinger and fly out multiple times every single game. Certainly Holt’s glove isn’t of the caliber of a Jackie Bradley, or even the improvements we’ve witnessed from Xander Bogaerts. But it doesn’t have to be. For Holt to be effective, he needs to maintain that level of workable consistency that has, as mentioned, contributed to his worth at over 2 WAR at any position he should choose.
For 2016, this is exactly what is required for the Red Sox. With potential other utility players stacked on an increasingly versatile bench, such as Deven Merrero and Travis Shaw, Holt leads the pack by providing Dombrowski with the ultimate insurance policy. You can expect, put money on it even, that 2016 will start as 2015 with Holt not in the starting lineup to last only until the first injury. Then he may as well be there until the end.
It’s ironic, but Holt who you may have forgotten we have, is actually one of the most important cogs in the works for Boston’s attempt at a turnaround. His versatility, his solid fielding ability, his success at the plate and his golden, locks that shimmer beneath helmet/cap. Throw all these together in a player who makes only league minimum and you’ve got a winner. And don’t you forget it.