When the Red Sox completed a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates after Christmas, it was clear what the priority was: acquiring a closer and shoring up the bullpen, courtesy Joel Hanrahan. What went more under-the-radar -- and understandably so -- was the infielder who came along with Hanrahan: Brock Holt.
Holt will be 25 in 2013, and while he's on the 40-man roster, he doesn't need to be in the majors just yet. He didn't make his big-league debut until September, and all of his options are remaining, meaning Boston can stick him in Triple-A Pawtucket if there's no room for him on the Red Sox to begin the year. As he hasn't spent much time in Triple-A at all, that wouldn't be the worst thing for him.
The infielder ranked 27th in Baseball America's top-30 Pirates prospect after the 2009 season, with a potentially useful -- though, not impact -- ceiling described:
...the Pirates were pleasantly surprised to find him available in the ninth round. After signing quickly for $125,000, Holt had a fine pro debut, leading State College in hitting (.299), runs (45), homers (six) and steals (nine in as many tries). He has surprising pop for a smaller guy and can hit mistakes out of the park. However, his offensive strength is his ability to make consistent contact and get on base. His instincts allow him to turn his good speed into stolen bases. A shortstop at Navarro, Holt played second base at Rice in deference to potential 2010 first-round pick Rick Hague, then saw most of his time at short in pro ball. Holt is a steady defender with decent range and a solid arm.
Little has changed to this point. He spent all of 2011 at Double-A, hitting .288/.356/.389, then repeated the level for most of 2012, putting up a .322/.389/.432 showing the second time around. In his brief time at Triple-A, Holt posted a .432/.476/.537 line, then .292/.329/.354 in 72 plate appearances in the majors. The plate discipline is there (.381 minor-league on-base percentage), as is his ability to make contact (.317 batting average, strikeouts under 13 percent of the time), and while he doesn't hit for much power -- his career Isolated Power is just .110 -- he doesn't need to at his positions or in his role.
In short, Holt can put the ball in play, draw some walks, and while he doesn't have a lot of power, he can run into a few extra-base hits. His glove is good enough for short, even if he's not great defensively, but this makes him a versatile -- and potentially useful -- piece. He's not a good base stealer, but his speed can still make him a useful pinch runner on a bench lacking in those kinds of players. Considering the Red Sox only have Pedro Ciriaco for these roles at the moment, and that veterans of this type tend to be lacking in options, that makes Holt's presence helpful both now and possibly in the future, too.
Alex Speier writes that the Red Sox view Holt as a "grinder" with "terrific energy," and that's not surprising to hear given he's listed at just 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds. Now, don't get your hopes up and think that means he's going to be the next Dustin Pedroia, but if he could be the next Nick Punto -- back when Punto was an inexpensive, walk-drawing 20-something with a glove, anyway -- then Boston did well to bring him along with the real prize. On a roster soon to be full of young players, high-energy types who work hard are not a bad thing to have around, especially in a clubhouse that has dealt with reports of dissension for a couple of years now. And that's just a bonus next to whatever production he can put together.