Brock Holt to Third Base, You Say?

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When a team fails the way the Boston Red Sox have failed this year, fans tend to look for ways to fix the team. Some have recently suggested that Pablo Sandoval needs to be moved, either off third base or off the team. Rick Rowand explains why putting Brock Holt to third base isn’t the best idea.

Because of the relatively disappointing year that Pablo Sandoval has been having both at the plate and in the field, calls have been ringing out hither and yon throughout the Nation to dump him on another team and eat a very large portion of his contract. People have also proposed moving him to first base, to replace the black hole of suck that has been Mike Napoli at the plate this season.

To fill the resulting Panda-sized hole at 3rd, one option being floated is to have Hanley Ramirez move to third, because, well, the change to left field has worked so well, and to have Sandoval move to first for the reason stated above. Others suggest moving Brock Holt! to third, putting the Panda at first and keeping Ramirez in left. Now, I’m not in favor of any of those options myself, mainly because, even though first is the “easiest position to play” defensively, it’s not something you learn on the fly during the season. And yes Virginia, I know that Sandoval has played some 63 games at first base in the majors.

Not unless you are Brock Holt! of course. But then, Holt! is something of a special case. I’ve been watching baseball for, well, let’s just call it a very, very long time, and I can’t remember a player who is able to play all seven positions that he does with anything close to competence at all of them. Not even superstar slider Nick Punto could make that claim. He did play all seven positions at one time or another, but he’s not someone you would write home about in the outfield since he only played around fifty innings out there. One thing you would write home about, if your parents were physics teachers or engineers, is why was he always sliding into first base. Let me amend that: even if your parents weren’t engineers or physics instructors you would write home asking why. It seems to be pretty common knowledge amongst the world’s population that friction causes objects to slow down, but not all ballplayers seem to grasp this concept. Maybe they should have a class about friction for players in the Instructional League to make sure that everyone is on the same page.

To my eyes, Holt! is at least league average all over the diamond. Well, maybe not shortstop or center field. He does lack the range and arm for shortstop, and the raw speed you need in center. But he can at least hold his own at those positions for a few games a year. One other thing I’ve never heard Brock Holt! called is a gritty player or a dirt dog like other utility players, and some starters, are. Nor should he be. Mainly because Holt! is talented and utilizes his talent and athletic ability to play the positions he does. In case you don’t know, a dirt dog or a gritty player is defined as an undersized white guy who gets by on hustle and not talent and is dirty from having to dive after balls because he isn’t fast enough to catch them while in the upright position. Think Trot Nixon vs. J.D. Drew in right field. This isn’t to say that many, many players don’t have soiled uniforms. Brock Holt! certainly does. And every player has to stretch out for a ball every now and then, but they don’t have dirt and grass stained uniforms every time they play like the scrappy players and dirt dogs do.

Because of his versatility, John Farrell has played Holt! in 94 out of the 102 games the Red Sox have played so far. Farrell moves him around as needed to give guys a day off or to replace a player who has an injury for a few games. So far this year he’s played 8 games at first, 16 at third, 9 at short, 12 in left, 2 at center, 17 in right and 30 at second. He’s played the most games at second because of injuries to Pedroia.

You might be able to tell that I’m an unabashed Brock Holt! fanboy. I even say his name like there’s an exclamation point permanently attached to it. Even conceding that, I don’t think playing Holt! at one position, like third, is the best use of his talents. His value comes because he can play so many different positions and play them well. If the Sox didn’t have him they would have to carry at least one other player on the roster to be the backup infielder or outfielder. Hell, they had to call up Jemile Weeks so they could give him time off because he jammed his knee and Pedroia is on the DL. Brock Holt! is the poster boy for utility players. The Sox need him in that valuable role.

Rick Rowand has written about the injury to Clay Buchholz, Boston’s rotationBrock Holt’s cycle and aura, and a series about Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart.

Follow Rick on Twitter @rrowand.

Check out Brandon Magee‘s article about undrafted free agents.

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