Brock Holt Can Do It All for the Boston Red Sox
Brock Holt was a shrimp growing up.
When he entered high school, Holt weighed just 84 pounds. I can relate. Like Brock, I was a late bloomer and didn't weigh 100 pounds until the summer before my freshman year of college. So naturally, I have an affinity for a player like Holt. And like Brock, who now weighs in at a still-slender 180 pounds, I grew up as well. Unfortunately, my baseball skills didn't develop in the same way that his did.
Lucky for him. Not so much for me.
The Boston Red Sox certainly are happy Holt has blossomed the way he has. Through the first 102 games of Boston's largely disappointing season this year, Holt has been their most valuable player, generating a team-best 2.5 fWAR among position players and a nERD of 1.44, meaning a lineup full of Brock Holt's would score 1.44 more runs per game than the average Major Leaguer. The other players with a 2.5 fWAR in the American League are Evan Longoria, Lorenzo Cain and Jacoby Ellsbury. You've probably heard of them.
Much of Holt's value comes in that he plays every position on the diamond. That's not an exaggeration.
With his start at 2B today, Brock Holt will become the first Red Sox ever to start at every position other than P and C in the same season.— Jon Shestakofsky (@Shesta_Sox) July 24, 2014
Here's the breakdown:
Holt had been starting mainly at third base in the absence of the injured Will Middlebrooks. Because of his versatility and Red Sox' injuries, Holt had started 59 straight games until Wednesday, when he finally got the day off. That sound you just heard was Cal Ripken Jr.'s deep exhale.
So how good has Holt been this year? Pretty dadgum good.
Holt doesn't yet have the number of plate appearances to qualify among the American League leaders, but among players with at least 300 plate appearances, he's fifth in batting average, 17th in on-base percentage and tied for 23rd in fWAR. Like Tampa's Ben Zobrist, much of Holt's value for fantasy owners has been because of his positional versatility. The offense has been a tremendous bonus, better than his career minor league numbers, and a surprise to a Red Sox team that is trying to get back in the AL East race.
But will Holt continue to produce at the levels he has been so far this year?
The data above shows Holt has a walk rate that is a full percentage point below league average, which is a troubling trend for his on-base percentage. And while he strikes out at a rate lower than the league average, the number that really bears watching is his batting average on balls in play (.387). That number is far higher than the league average (.299) and indicates Holt has been extremely fortunate on the balls he's put into play this year. It would also indicate that his numbers are likely to regress, even if his walk-rate and strikeout-rate remain the same.
In fact, our own projections see him hitting .262/.323/.384 for the rest of the season, with a Fantasy Score of -0.47, 248th in MLB. We project two more home runs for him the rest of the way and an OPS of .707. So expecting him to continue to maintain a .318 batting average and an on-base percentage of .365 is a bad bet.
Holt does not have a "skill" that jumps off the page. He's a hard worker and a grinder that has turned himself into a fine baseball player. His versatility makes him valuable, and even if his stats dip a bit the rest of the season, he's still a great guy to have, both in fantasy and for Boston.