Everything Brock Holt says seemingly is out of the Crash Davis handbook. Everything he does on the field these days looks like something you’d see from Roy Hobbs.
Simply put, Holt has been a baseball player’s baseball player. A man’s man. A legend’s legend. How could one not marvel at the 26-year-old’s emergence from a Four-A utility player to a star on the defending World Series champions?
But is Holt for real?
This is becomingly an increasingly contentious topic of discussion, mainly because the Boston Red Sox’s new superutility leadoff hitter is showing no signs of regression 32 games into his major league season despite bouncing around the diamond like a pinball. It’s becoming more difficult with each passing day to write off Holt’s hot streak as one player’s 15 minutes of fame. Perhaps Holt is the real deal Holyfield.
Holt enters Friday’s game against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway Park hitting .336 with an .839 OPS in 143 plate appearances. He owns an insane 130 wRC+, meaning he has created 30 percent more runs than a league average player — according to FanGraphs, a wRC+ above 120 is “excellent.” His 5.2 offensive WAR (according to FanGraphs’ offensive WAR scale) ranks third on the Red Sox behind Mike Napoli’s 6.4 and Xander Bogaerts’ 5.9.
It’s impossible to deny that Holt’s been awesome. The question, however, is whether his current production is sustainable, and there is evidence to suggest he’ll eventually fall back down to earth.
Holt owns a .410 BABIP (batting average on balls in play). It’s an absurd mark, really, as the average BABIP for a hitter is between .290 and .310. Any extreme deviation from that range — a la Holt’s mark — typically means the player is due for some regression, although the extent of which obviously will vary depending on the player. The Hardball Times’ xBABIP (expected batting average on balls in play) calculator suggests — based on several factors — that Holt’s BABIP will regress to .335, meaning a dip in his more conventional statistics (like batting average) and his overall offensive production is likely.
But this isn’t to knock Holt, by any means. The fact is his value to the Red Sox right now goes well beyond any advanced metric. Not only has he brought stability to the top of the Red Sox’s order — something Boston searched high and low for earlier this season — but he also gives manager John Farrell more flexibility than any other player on the active roster. Holt essentially can serve as a stopgap wherever Boston’s biggest hole is located at any given time.
“(I’ll play) wherever they put me. It’s not my decision to make,” Holt said Thursday at Fenway Park. “Just come to the park ready to play, and wherever that may be, get ready for there.”
Chances are Holt’s long-term future resides in the infield, where he played his entire professional career before this season. The Red Sox are severely limited in terms of organizational outfield depth, though, so Holt’s time in the outfield and his continued offensive production — or lack thereof — this season could be a strong indicator of whether there’s an everyday role for him in Boston beyond 2014.
“Obviously, I’ve been playing infield my whole life. I never played outfield,” Holt said Thursday while assessing his whirlwind season. “So it’s not something you’re thinking, ‘Hey, I’m going to start playing outfield when I get to the big leagues.’ But it’s a good experience for me and good opportunity to be able to go out there, and I’m blessed to be able to have it and take it and run with it.”
Holt might not be “The Natural,” as he’s led some to believe over the last few weeks. But he’s an extremely versatile ballplayer who’s capable of contributing — often at a high level — to a club’s overall offensive attack.
There’s plenty of room for those types of players in Major League Baseball and in Boston.
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