Is Red Sox's Brock Holt the Real Deal or a Flash in the Pan?

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Is Red Sox's Brock Holt the Real Deal or a Flash in the Pan?
Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

When Brock Holt does a pushup, he isn't lifting himself up: He's pushing the earth down.

Brock Holt doesn't call the wrong number. You answer the wrong phone.

Brock Holt does not sleep. He waits.

Sure, all these "facts" may originally have been attributed to Chuck Norris. But after an absurd start to the 2014 season, Holt is becoming a legend in his own right, serving as one of the lone bright spots for the Boston Red Sox this year.

Holt's success, versatility and all-out style of play have endeared him to the fanbase, and there's no doubting that he's been a hugely important piece for the Red Sox this year. Yet the suddenness with which he's burst onto the scene has many asking a reasonable question: Is Brock Holt good enough to be a legitimate major league starter, or is he merely another flash in the plan headed for serious regression?

A look at the numbers suggests that those two outcomes may not be mutually exclusive.

Holt is hitting .323/.363/.446 through 202 plate appearances this year, hitting two homers and 13 doubles and going 5-of-6 in stolen base attempts. Not bad for the player considered to be the throw-in in the Joel Hanrahan/Mark Melancon trade.

However, Holt's ISO sits at just .124, and his strikeout and walk rates are 19.3 percent and 5.3 percent, respectively. Holt's batted ball numbers, courtesy of FanGraphs, help to explain why he's been so successful despite his modest power and average strikeout-to-walks ratio.

Brock Holt vs. League Average
BABIP LD% GB% FB%
Holt .395 24.3 49.3 26.4
League Avg .298 20.4 45.3 34.3

FanGraphs.com

Those of you familiar with BABIP will note immediately that Holt's due for some serious regression here. He might have a slightly above-average hit tool, but he's nowhere near good enough to sustain a BABIP near .400 for the entire year. More of the balls he puts into play should turn into outs as the year progresses, and his average will drop accordingly.

One good sign, though, is that Holt's line-drive percentage is significantly higher than the league average. That generally means that he is making good contact, and high line-drive rates tend to correlate with higher BABIPs, so the regression may not be quite as steep as we think.

Steven Senne/Associated Press

Holt's ground-ball and fly-ball rates also suggest that he's playing to his strengths, using his ability to generate hard contact and his decent speed by hitting the ball on a line or into the ground. Holt's power is a weakness, so the fewer balls he hits in the air, the better.

Overall, these advanced stats paint a picture of a player who's due to fall back down to Earth a bit, but in a controlled descent rather than a nosedive. Holt isn't this good, but we shouldn't expect him to be bad, either.

And while he was never considered much of a prospect in the minors, the one thing he's always done is get on base. Holt's career MiLB slash line in 2,070 plate appearances is .307/.372/.410, and that includes his .304/.367/.385 line in 556 career plate appearances in Triple-A.

Holt may not bring much power to the table, but he can hit for average. If he works on improving his walk rate in the major leagues, he should warrant playing time with his bat in Boston moving forward, even if he's eventually moved out of the leadoff spot.

Yet Holt's bat might not be his greatest attribute at the major league level. Instead, his calling card will most likely prove to be his versatility.

Holt has played 23 games at third base, seven games at first base and 15 games in the outfield for Boston this year, shifting between all three outfield positions. He has extensive experience as a second baseman and a shortstop in the minor leagues, and while he's an emergency-only option at short, he seems to be able to play all other six positions adequately.

It's hard to overstate what type of value that brings to a team at a time when 12 roster spots are usually reserved for pitchers. Not only does Holt's versatility allow John Farrell to find ways to play him every day, but it should eventually let the Red Sox cut Jonathan Herrera once Will Middlebrooks returns.

And while "intangibles" are often mockedand sometimes rightfully somany in the Red Sox organization are quick to cite Holt's work ethic, and we've heard nothing but praise for his attitude and preparation.

Farrell told Over The Monster's Joon Lee:

The best way to wrap it up, he’s a good baseball player...I say that in general, but he understands the game, he’s athletic, he’s got speed, I think he’s improve his basestealing and his overall baserunning from the time we got him here. I think more than anything he’s really flourishing in the flexibility we’re providing for him.

So yes, Holt is due for some regression. He's not likely to hit above .300 at the MLB level. He's not likely to lead off for a contender for a full season. And he may find himself sitting against tough lefties once the league adjusts to his sudden success.

But Holt is going to be a major league player for a long time, and whether that comes as a starter or as a "super utility" player, it's a valuable profile nonetheless. He can play every corner position on the diamond. He's decent in center field or at second base. And his best position may be standing at the plate.

Not much has gone right for the Red Sox in 2014, but Holt gives us something to root for now and in the years to come.

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