BOSTON – Most baseball people don’t like to use the word ‘surprise’ or any variations thereof when talking about a player and his performance. It implies that perhaps the player’s value or potential was misread – too much or too little -- or not fully appreciated.
That’s not to say, however, that some players don’t catch evaluators by surprise.
Prior to this season, Brock Holt had played a total of 50 major league games, 24 for the Pirates in 2012 -- before he was traded to the Red Sox with Joel Hanrahan in December of that year – and 26 last season with the Sox. He hit a combined .250 in those games, .203 last season.
This season, in three major league stints, he has appeared in 33 games, batting .331/.367/.456. He has made 33 starts – 22 at third base, six at first base and five in left field. The latter two were his first professional appearances at those positions. Since the start of June he has started six games at first base, five in left, and one at third.
In his latest big league stint, which began May 17, he is hitting .327/.353/.460 in 26 games. Since the start of June he is hitting .370/.393/.500, all in the lead-off spot.
In 22 games as the lead-off hitter he is batting .337/.355/.465. His performance has forced manager John Farrell to find new and creative ways to keep Holt’s bat in the lineup.
Holt will add to his resume today when he makes his first professional start in right field. Jonny Gomes will be in left, with Jackie Bradley, Jr., in center.
Holt hasn’t gotten in much work in right field, concentrating on the other positions that have been firsts for him. Fenway’s right field can be an unforgiving area for those who aren’t accustomed to it.
Manager John Farrell is not concerned.
“Brock is in right, large in part because Jonny's played left field so well here, and wanted to keep that continuity with Jonny in left,” Farrell said. “And even though we’ve moved Brock around some, feel like we can take advantage of his speed and maybe added range in right field if it’s needed.”
Perhaps the Sox aren’t surprised by what Holt has been able to do. But, they appreciate it.
“Well, just throwing him in the outfield with really no lead up or repetition at the minor league level prior to coming here,” Farrell said. “And then quickly we saw some of the reads and routes he’s made, particularly over in Detroit, and then makes another good catch last night.
“It’s his ability to adapt to a new position as quick as he has, that’s the thing that’s been most surprising. But knowing who he is as a competitor and an athlete and his baseball intelligence, that’s not surprising. It’s just the ability to adapt so quick.”
Holt, who turned 26 on Wednesday, was a ninth-round pick of the Pirates in 2009. In 481 minor league games over parts of six seasons he hit .307/.372/.410, all while playing second, third and shortstop.
“If you look at his track record throughout the minor leagues, he’s always been a well-above-average hitter,” Farrell said. “Has always hit for a high average, primarily playing second base. But the athleticism we felt he can move around and be a utility type. Btu he’s exceeded, I think, the versatility on the defensive side right now.”