A look at Tyler Holt’s career and potential for the future
Tyler Holt has become quite familiar with the 140 mile stretch of I-71 South that separates the Cleveland Indians and the state capitol of Columbus, where the AAA Columbus Clippers play.
Indians fans aren’t nearly that familiar with Holt.
The former Florida State Seminole was called up on July 6 to make his major league debut. He was sent back down a mere two days later. Then on August 1, he made his triumphant return to the 216 area code. On August 5, he made his not-so-triumphant return to Columbus. August 10 rolled around and the Indians came calling once again. A week later the team told Tyler, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
When Ryan Raburn hit the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, the Indians called up Holt for the fourth time in the span of a month and a half. He arrived at Target Field in Minnesota about 15 minutes before first pitch. Used as a pinch hitter with two outs and two runners on in the sixth inning, Holt doubled off the wall in right-center, driving in both runs and ultimately winning the game for the Tribe. After the win he presumably went back to the hotel and began packing his bags. The news of Nick Swisher missing the rest of 2014 may have changed his plans.
So what do you need to know about Holt heading into the final stretch of 2014 and beyond? The Indians took him with the fifth pick in the 10th round of the 2010 amateur draft. In doing so, they passed on names such as A.J. Griffin (SP, A’s, 13th round), Adam Eaton (OF, ARI, 19th round) and Joc Pederson (OF, LAD, 11th round). In his career at FSU, Holt is fourth all-time in runs, seventh in doubles, ninth in OBP, 10th in stolen bases and fifth in walks. He was named second team Freshman All-American by the NCBWA in 2008, second team All-American by Baseball America, Collegiate Baseball and the NCBWA in 2009 and first team preseason All-American by the NCBWA and Collegiate Baseball in 2010. Holt also received an ABCA/Rawlings Gold Glove Award for centerfield in 2009.
Tyler immediately went to Lake County after signing his first professional contract. In 22 games that year, he hit a respectable .286 with five stolen bases and a 15/12 strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio. He failed to hit a home run and has only left the yard six times since signing with the Indians. The following year was spent at High A with the Kinston Indians. While his bat was mostly quiet (.254/.365/.325), he drew 78 walks and stole an impressive 34 bases.
In 2012 Holt split time at Kinston (with nearly identical numbers as 2011) and Akron, where he struggled offensively. His .326 OBP, while not horrible, was too low for a guy who was supposed to be paying the bills by getting on base, and his .618 OPS showed just how little pop his bat had.
Last season was a bit of a bounce-back year for Holt at Akron. He was getting on base (.338 OBP), stealing when he was there (28 swipes), striking out less (16.5 K% in 2012, 15.3% in 2013) and showing a tad more life in his bat (24 doubles, nine triples).
The success has continued this year so far. Between Akron and Columbus, Holt has posted a batting average above .300, with 31 stolen bases and a 71/66 K/BB ratio. His 135 wRC+ in Columbus, while probably not sustainable, is excellent, along with his walk rate (14.3 BB%). These numbers clearly led to the rollercoaster ride that has been Tyler Holt’s travel itinerary so far this season.
And that brings us to today. Holt is still up, trying to prove once and for all that he’s ready to contribute at the major league level. But can he?
Yes, absolutely. In basketball, a team can always find a roster spot for a guy who can just flat-out shoot. He may not start or play significant minutes, but when you absolutely need someone to knock down a jumper when the pressure is on, you can always call his number.
In baseball, a team can always find a roster spot for a guy who can run, play good defense and get on base. Holt can do these things, albeit at varying degrees of success. Speed and defense are his two best tools, tools that never go into slumps. This brings his potential floor in terms of production to a respectable level. It’s his bat and ability to get on base that will determine just how much he will be able to contribute to the Indians in coming years. Nobody is expecting him to turn into a Ben Zobrist, Alex Gordon or a Coco Crisp. He’s already 25 years old. But if he can make adjustments at the plate and fight his way on base at an average rate, his speed and defense make him a potentially valuable piece for the Indians moving forward.