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Holt can hit, but faces tough road with Pirates

Commentary

July 11, 2012
By Cory Giger, cgiger@altoonamirror.com , The Altoona Mirror

Brock Holt could hit in the big leagues, but if he's ever going to get there, the scrappy little Curve infielder has got to be a dirty player.

He's got to dive all over the field, hustle more than everyone else, do all the little things right and make people watching him play say, "That kid gives it everything he's got all the time."

That's the only way little guys like the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Holt get noticed.

His .315 batting average is easy to notice as it ranks sixth in the Eastern League. His 147 hits last year were easy to notice as that ranks ninth in Curve history - and with 94 already, he should blow by that number this season if he stays healthy and stays in Double-A.

Holt is back in the Eastern League All-Star Game for a second straight year and will be one of four Curve representatives in the contest tonight at Reading. Holt was the game's MVP last year as he hit an early home run.

Put Holt in the major leagues, and the left-handed hitter would probably find a way to hit .270 or better, with a good on-base percentage.

Fact Box

EL All-Star Game

Where: Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium

When: 7:05 tonight

Curve representatives: SS Brock Holt, C Ramon Cabrera, RHP Brandon Cumpton, RHP Vic Black

Listen: Internet stream at readingphillies.com

"He just knows how to hit," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said.

"He has barrel awareness, he's hitting over .300 against lefties (.324), which tells you that doesn't faze him when lefties are on the mound. He's got a simple approach, a very simple swing, not a lot of flaws in it."

The 24-year-old from Texas also believes he could hit for a good average in the majors.

"I think so," he said. "You've got to be confident in your ability, and right now I feel like I'm swinging the bat pretty well. I've just got to keep working, and hopefully I'll get my shot sooner or later."

There are several problems, though, with Holt ever getting an extended shot with the Pirates.

First, he doesn't excel defensively at shortstop or second base. He's got 18 errors in 79 games at short, and he lacks the range and arm strength to play there every day in the majors. The Pirates don't have room for Holt at second base because Neil Walker likely isn't going anywhere any time soon.

Second, the Bucs already have a bunch of middle infielders ahead of Holt in their system, from Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer in the big leagues to Chase d'Arnaud, Yamaico Navarro and Anderson Hernandez in Triple-A.

Finally, Holt has very little power, with just two homers this season and 10 in 324 professional games. He does have 22 doubles and a very good .821 OPS this season, but he will never be known as much of a power threat.

Holt already should be in Triple-A based on what he's done offensively for the Curve in a season and a half, but there just hasn't been room for him at Indianapolis. We'll see if the Pirates give him a shot at Indy in the second half, and if they don't, it won't be a good sign for Holt's career in the organization.

Holt, a very polite, positive young man, understands he can't worry about anything outside of his control, although he did admit he realizes he must do everything better than everyone else around him in order to get noticed.

"It's becoming more apparent now, the higher up I get," he said. "I've just got to keep coming to the park every day ready to work and continue to improve."

Holt has a manager in Forbes who understands exactly what he's going through. Forbes, a 5-10, 160-pound infielder, was a good hitter in his own right with a .280 career average over 13 seasons in the minors, but all that got him was 17 at-bats in 12 games over two brief stints in the majors.

Forbes can relate to Holt because, well, he essentially was Holt during his career, although he hit from the right side instead of the left. The manager has had discussions with his infielder about what it will take for him to find ways to get opportunities at the higher levels.

"I've told him, 'You can't be a pretty player,'" Forbes said. "You have to be a down-and-dirty [player]. Stick your nose in there every chance you get.

"He's got to be the Mr. Consistent, dirtbag, Charlie Hustle, grind it out every single day player," Forbes added. "He's got to bring it every single day. He's got to be the best player on the field every single day, the dirtiest player on the field every single day, scratching and clawing for everything he gets. That's what guys have to do when they look like him and I."

Holt said he's been working on his bunting and stealing more bases (he has 18), which are two areas the Pirates wanted to see improvement this season. He's also going to have to become a better defensive player to reach the majors and get any kind of consistent playing time there.

Holt is a fine young man and a heck of a hitter, so he's the kind of guy you root for to get to the big leagues and have success.

It wouldn't be a surprise to see the Pirates trade Holt at some point, and that might be the best thing that could happen for his career. If he could land in an organization that doesn't have an established big league second baseman or a bunch of middle infielders waiting in the wings, then perhaps he could get a legitimate shot with the major league club.

It's just hard to see Holt ever getting that with the Pirates, no matter how well he keeps hitting for the Curve.

Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.

 
 
 

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