If you dare venture onto Brock Holt’s MLB.com player page, his title reads “Brock Holt, #26, 3B.” Whether or not MLB.com prefers to simplify positionality, anyone who knows of Brock Holt knows that he is not a third baseman. Well, he has played a lot of third base; in fact, most of his innings have come at that position. But when I say “most of his innings”, I’m talking about roughly 38% of them. So if you don’t know who Brock Holt is, you probably have a better idea now. The Legend of Brock Holt is a solution to everyone’s problem, and while he may not seem flashy or eye-opening, some would call him a star. Nowadays, I often hear super utility players referred to as “Ben Zobrist-types”, though it won’t be long until we will see Brock Holt types in the spotlight.
Firstly, I have nothing against Ben Zobrist. We not only share a name, but I also have the utmost respect for his all-around play and calm attitude. He has the ability to play multiple positions effectively, and he has a career .783 OPS and 119 wRC+. The guy can hit, and I am not saying that Brock Holt cannot, but his 94 wRC+ is in a different league.
Fortunately, that is not the point. Zobrist turns 34 years old in 2015, and who knows how long his versatility can hold up the aging curve. Let’s look at his versatility up close, obviously excluding pitching and catching.
|Ben Zobrist’s Positions Played|
Yes, Ben Zobrist is a versatile baseball player. But 4 games at third base? 17 games at first base? As you will see with Brock, that is certainly acceptable at the early end of a career, but as for the complete versatility we can do better. Brock Holt is the ultimate symbol of versatility, and at the ripe age of 26, Brock Holt is on pace to do something that nobody has ever done before: Play 50 games at every position (aside from catcher/pitcher, which we will leave out completely going forward).
Before we get into the record, let us get to know Brock Holt a little bit better, as even I knew minimal about the “third baseman”. He was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and went to Stephenville High School (hilariously, ex-Philadelphia Eagle Kevin Kolb was also there with him). He attended Navarro College before transferring to Rice, where he was drafted by the Pirates in the 9th round in 2009. We know he isn’t a pure hitter, but this surrounds what he has done defensively in his first few big league seasons. Because of his nature as a super utility player, he only eclipsed the rookie limits last season, despite shuffling around in Pittsburgh and in Boston in 2013. These are the positions he has played so far in his career:
|Brock Holt’s Positions Played|
Being 26 years old and with all these appearances arising from a mere 667 Plate Appearances, Holt needs roughly another half dozen seasons to be the first to 50 games at every one of these positions.
For clarification purposes, there are only 4 players to have played 45 games at every position:
- Joe McEwing
- Denny Hocking
- Jimmy Johnston
- Willie Bloomquist
What is consistent with these four names, and with super utility players alike, is that they are primarily middle infielders. And this is logical, since theoretically the “hardest” position to play on a baseball field (aside from catcher) is shortstop. So if you can play shortstop, you can probably play second base, and sometimes the outfield and the corners. Thus, it is no surprise that the main reason these guys fall short of 50 games at every position list is because of first base. Willie Bloomquist, on the other hand, is quite close, as he only needs 5 more games at first base to get there. Yet he is 37 years old now, and is primarily being used as a backup shortstop.
This is where Brock Holt, being primarily a third baseman, gives him an edge, as a natural position change from third base is to first base. This makes him a more suitable candidate to get innings at first base than your typical utility man. At one angle, to make this 50-game dream a reality, we likely do not want a complete hole at first base. That would imply the need to either stuff Holt’s bat there every day (a bad idea), or cause Boston to acquire a first baseman. Fortunately, with the oft-injured Pablo Sandoval currently occupying the hot corner in Beantown, there is certainly a strong possibility of him moving over to play some first base during the length of his contract, and we know all about his injury history and the need for a sufficient back-up plan. Additionally, Mike Napoli is a free agent in 2016, opening the door for that move to come sooner than later.
This is all hypothetical, and team structure can change drastically in the future. Though in some regard it does present some realistic way for the goal to be achieved. And I doubt the Red Sox are trading their swiss-army knife anytime soon.
Looking forwards, there is a non-zero chance that the aging Willie Bloomquist gets his 50 games before Holt. In fact, there is probably a better chance of it, given the uncertainty of projecting years ahead. Nevertheless, I will be cheering for Brock Holt, the little 5’10″ sparkplug from Fort Worth, Texas who still has a full head of hair.
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Any post that references Denny Hocking gets a tip of the hat. Well done.