The 2015 Boston Red Sox have not had too many bright spots so far. However, having versatile Brock Holt has been good for the team. Brandon Magee shows us how having such a rare player can be very helpful.
Brock Holt is a permanent part of the Red Sox lineup. However, he is a man without a permanent home. His ability to play multiple positions allows him to play as often as any starter, despite not being the starter at any position. He is BROCKHOLT!, SuperSub.
Holt played in 106 games for Boston last season, earning enough votes to place eighth in the American League Rookie of the year balloting. He was the ultimate utility player, starting games at every position with the exception of catcher and pitcher. His primary residences were not positions he had played extensively prior to the year, third base (37 games started) and right field (28 games started).
This trend continues this season. In his 36 games played, he has again played in every non-battery position, starting games everywhere but first base. As in 2014, his primary starting positions have been third (8 games) and right field (9 games). The Red Sox have not been shy to exploit his versatility. From May 24th through June 1st, Holt garnered starts at third base, shortstop, right field and left field. In three consecutive games, he changed positions within the same game. On the 28th, Holt moved from left field to shortstop after Xander Bogaerts left the game after being hit by a pitch. The next day, Holt again started in left, before switching to first base after Mike Napoli’s ejection. The following day, he would again replace Mike Napoli in the eighth, this time moving from shortstop. Holt has played multiple positions in the same game eight times this season.
While we have already looked at Brock’s play in the outfield, his defensive work in the infield deserves some consideration as well. In this play, Holt ranges far to his left to pick up a slow grounder and retire Delino Deshields: Brock isn’t afraid to get his uniform dirty either, as shown by the quick dive in this play:
On this play, he combines all of his attributes, diving to his right, getting up quickly and throwing a strike across the diamond to get Asdrubal Cabrera:
While Holt’s defensive versatility would be enough to justify his roster spot, Brock has been a steady offensive performer as well. In 2014, Holt put up a respectable line of .281/.331/.381 with 32 extra base hits. Holt was great in the first half of 2014 with a wOBA and wRC+ of .366 and 133, while his second half numbers were less impressive at .251 and 53 respectively. He has even better numbers through the first two months of this season, batting .286/.370/.410. Of particular note is his relative increase in walks. Last season, Holt walked in just under 7% of his plate appearances. This season, he has increased that to 10%.
Just like Brock Holt’s defensive flexibility, he has versatility in the batter’s box. He does not focus on any particular zone, pitch, or pitcher to get his hits. As the 2014 chart below shows, Brock put approximately 10% of all strikes in play for hits. This was true on pitches thrown by both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. It was true on fastballs, breaking balls and offspeed pitches:
Although it is still relatively early in the season, Holt is showing similar trends this season:
Brock Holt is an integral part of the Red Sox roster construction. His ability to handle multiple positions, even in the same game, allows the Red Sox considerable flexibility. In particular, it allows the Red Sox the ability to have a 13 man pitching staff when needed, as Holt can play the part of either the primary backup infielder or outfielder. Manager John Farrell also utilizes Holt’s flexibility, often inserting him for Hanley Ramirez as a defensive replacement late in games.
The versatile Brock Holt may not have a permanent position on the field, but his baseball abilities have given him a permanent position on the Red Sox roster. As long as he is able to play seven positions adequately, he will be on a major league roster. There is only one question that remains – when does he add pitcher and catcher to his bag of tricks?