By Jeff Louderback
Among the reasons that the Boston Red Sox stumbled to a 69-93 record in 2012 is a lack of Major League-caliber depth to fill in for injured core players. Earlier this offseason, Red Sox president and CEO told the media that the club would assemble “deep depth” within the organization, and a prime example is the other name Boston acquired in the Joel Hanrahan trade.
Brock Holt, a 24-year-old left-handed hitter who was a ninth round pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of Rice University in 2009, proficiently plays second base and shortstop. He is the type of player who would have helped last year when Dustin Pedroia was sidelined.
A high energy guy who plays the game in the quintessential Dirt Dawg style, Holt is not considered a top prospect. Yet he projects as a useful Major League utility man who has hit .317/.381/.427/.808 over four seasons in the Pirates organization, including a .432 average and a 1.013 OPS in 106 plate appearances in his first taste of Triple-A last summer. When Holt was summoned to Pittsburgh for his Major League debut last year, he batted .292 in 72 plate appearances.
Holt is the latest intriguing utility type player that Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington has acquired either through trades or minor league free agent signings. Last season, Pedro Ciriaco (who was inked as a minor league free agent out of the Pirates organization) emerged as a viable Major League infielder and is slated to open the 2013 campaign on the Red Sox 25-man roster.
The Red Sox sent versatile infielder Ivan De Jesus Jr. to Pittsburgh in the Hanrahan trade since he is out of options and would unlikely make the opening day roster.
Holt has all three options remaining and is projected to open the season at Triple-A Pawtucket, but with his ability to hit for average and effectively play the middle infield positions, he will likely get called up if an injury arises to Pedroia, Stephen Drew or Ciriaco. The Red Sox could bring up Holt instead of Jose Iglesias if the latter is still in need of more Triple-A at-bats.
The Red Sox have more work to do before they enter spring training. They must determine if Mike Napoli will be the first baseman, and even if Napoli signs, they need to land a left-handed hitting first baseman (and preferably someone who can also play another position). Cherington will also likely add a low risk, high reward type starting pitcher who is willing to open the season at Pawtucket.
As far as the current group of players slated for Boston and Pawtucket, the Red Sox have done an admirable job adding the depth they desired. Holt is a key part of that depth.