Welcome to BP Boston’s second annual Roster Recap series. Over the next few months, we’ll be analyzing every player on Boston’s 40-man roster and many of their top prospects in order to provide a comprehensive overview of the Red Sox roster’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as what we can expect moving forward. From MVP-candidate right fielders to reserve relievers, we want to give you a look at every Red Sox who might matter in 2017. View the complete list of Roster Recaps here. Enjoy!
Look, I like Brock Holt. I really do. He’s a genuinely likable guy and it’s fun to watch him play seven different positions. He’s become something of a cult icon in Boston, and comes in a close second to Dustin Pedroia on the grittiness index. The dude’s great. Also the running \o/ gag is very much up my alley.
That being said, 2016 was his worst full season in the majors, and it’s not because of misuse or being overworked. Holt was either injured, ineffective or both. Luckily for the Red Sox, they had the depth to shoulder his loss for a while, which doesn’t bode well for his future prospects either. As much as you and I want it to be all sunshine and rainbows for Holt, it’s increasingly looking like it won’t be.
What Went Right In 2016
He had a really good Opening Week. After being named the Opening Day starter in left field, Holt went off in the team’s first road trip of the year, smacking two homers – the same total he hit in 2015 – and being the catalyst we all knew him to be. One of those homers needed some rye bread and mustard:
I still don’t know what was up with that tongue thing in the dugout.
After cooling off, being injured, and then rehabbing, Holt came back and played a mix of left field and third base. He hit a few more doubles and homers, and even his first dinger in the postseason.
So, hey, it wasn’t all bad. Holt still did Holt things.
What Went Wrong In 2016
Practically everything else, and there was no in-between here. Holt cooled down pretty fast from the hot start to the season, and by May 19th, he sported a disappointing .239/.310/.394 slash line. On May 20th, he was put on the 7-day concussion disabled list, citing a concussion that he believed he incurred on May 10th. This is not the first time he tried to play through a concussion, either. You can’t blame the guy for not wanting to stop playing, but man, this is frustrating to see. As much as coaches and fans want dirt dogs who play through nagging injuries, it’s very unsafe as a whole, especially with concussions.
Once Holt healed up, he came back on July 2nd, just as Travis Shaw was fading fast. That gave him sporadic playing time at third base for the rest of the year, during which he’d suffer ankle, oblique, and shoulder injuries. None of them would force a return trip to the DL, however.
No matter the injury, Holt’s hitting would never approach what he did in 2015. While his power spiked and he struck out less, Holt’s BABIP came crashing down to earth. After sitting on a .350 BABIP for two years, Holt produced a .294 mark in 2016. The culprits here were slightly more grounders and a lot more weak contact. Holt had always had a groundball rate over 50%, but it usually came with decent contact behind it. This time, it didn’t, and that made all the difference.
A healthy Holt gives you league average hitting no matter where you put him in the field. An unhealthy Holt gives you 2016.
What To Expect In 2017
When the season starts, he’s going to still be the 10th man, that first person off the bench that John Farrell can slot in anywhere. But the farther into the future you look, the more muddled his outlook becomes.
The emergence of Andrew Benintendi essentially eliminates consistent playing time in left field for Holt, other than to spell the rookie every so often. Farrell can’t platoon the two since they’re both left-handed hitters. Same goes for third base if Pablo Sandoval successfully returns. You can’t possibly imagine a platoon with him anywhere else either – Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts need no such thing, and Jackie Bradley Jr. is also left-handed. The most often you’d see him – barring injuries – is probably two or three times a week.
So it would probably be smart for the Red Sox to look into what they could get for him in a trade. Holt’s value is nebulous because he’s not in a role where it’s easy to evaluate him and have a clear idea of what he’s worth. Some teams could use a second baseman that can hold his own with the stick. There won’t be a roster hole if he leaves, since Red Sox already have the depth to fill the spot Holt vacates if he is traded. Chris Young is entrenched as the 4th outfielder, and Marco Hernandez can play any infield position (aside from 1B) competently while carrying some upside in both his bat and his baserunning.
Expect him to be the baseball Swiss Army Knife we all know and love for the early part of the season, but don’t be shocked if he’s involved in a trade to fix whatever isn’t working on the Sox.
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