I’m pulling for Brock Holt. I really am. I was excited to watch him collect four hits last night as the Pirates defeated the Astros in a crucial game. Heck, I like Holt a lot just for the hashtags that people use around his name. (Lightning Holt, Party like a Brock-star, Brock you like a Hurricane are some of my favorites). But as expected when a player does well in his first handful of games, especially when they can play middle infield, the question comes if this guy can play shortstop or not.
Holt can hit, and he can hit well. In Altoona this year, Holt hit .322/.389/.432 with 24 doubles, six triples, and two homers in 102 games before going to Triple-A Indianapolis where he posted a .432/.444/.537 line with seven doubles and a homer in 24 games. Holt was called up after that. In his four games, yes only four, and 14 plate appearances with the Pirates, Holt boasts a .462/.500/.538 line. Aside from the great hashtags on Twitter last night, the main discussion I had with people revolved around Holt playing short regularly when Neil Walker comes back.
Funny, I think we’ve heard this before haven’t we?
When Josh Harrison went on a ten-game hitting streak in May playing multiple positions including shortstop, people were quick to ask why Harrison doesn’t play shortstop full-time over Clint Barmes? Fair or unfair, there’s a reason that Harrison has the reputation of being a bad defender and why he is a utility player. Though since Harrison hustles and was hitting the ball, the fans would forgive the defense in order to give the lineup a charge. Result of reacting over a small sample.
Then there is Drew Sutton. For people who know me, I like Sutton a lot and got to know him pretty well in his stint in Pittsburgh. In his first two weeks with the Pirates, Sutton hit .321 in various positions. The question once again came can Drew Sutton play shortstop? Sutton struggled to keep the pace he was at. He wound up in Indy. Although for those 14 games, Sutton was the answer in a lot of people’s minds as short.
Even recently, Jordy Mercer would get mentioned as too why he isn’t gaining more playing time at shortstop. Again, I like Mercer and he has a pretty good glove and some pop, but he’s not the answer. But for a little while, people considered him.
So who does this all come back to? It comes back to Barmes. Barmes is signed for one more year and while Hurdle loved him in Colorado, he simply hasn’t produced to say the least. His glove has been a marginal upgrade over Ronny Cedeno from last season. While he makes the extraordinary play, he botches the simple ones. Even with the errors, fans would be ok with Barmes if he could just hit. Look at Pedro Alvarez. Alvarez has 22 errors on the season and is arguably the most scrutinized player on the Pirates — except when he’s hitting the ball. When he’s locked in, no one says a word about his strikeouts or errors. It could be the same for Barmes.
So that brings us back full circle to Holt. For a fan base that just wants the Pirates to break .500 and make the playoffs for the first time in 19 years, they want whatever help they can get. Right now, the flavor of the week is Holt. In my whole time following baseball, I can only think of a few guys who have went from someone that casual fans haven’t heard about, to Dustin Pedroia in less than a week.
Holt is better suited to play second base and made 23 errors in 419 chances which is still good for a .945 fielding percentage. Again since Holt has proven he can hit on every level, the errors don’t matter. But to crown the guy the starter after four games is preposterous. Do the Pirates ride the hot hand right now? Absolutely. When Neil Walker returns Friday from his back injury, should the Pirates get Holt’s bat in the lineup at shortstop? Yes. Ride the hot bat. However, just like Harrison and Sutton before him, Holt won’t keep up this pace.
The story of Brock Holt is a great one this year and I’m pulling for the kid to succeed. But as Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle said, Holt is the fourth shortstop on this team right now. That doesn’t mean he won’t get an occasional spot start, but let’s not anoint the kid just yet. Some more games, some offseason work and playing short at spring training, then Holt can get a shot. For right now, just enjoy the spark he’s giving the lineup. You know, just like you did with Sutton and Harrison.
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