Heading into next season however, I think that is about to change.
After being selected in the first round, 33rd overall in the 2008 draft, the Mets sent Holt to join the Brooklyn Cyclones. He did not disappoint.
In 72 innings, he went 5-3 with a sparkling 1.87 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP. His most impressive statistic, were his 96 strike outs in those 72 innings, giving him a K/9 ratio of 11.94, tops in the NYPL. The only issue, which would rear its ugly head later, was that he walked 4.11 batters per nine innings. It was still early in his professional career, so because of his great ERA, WHIP and K/9, the high walk rate was ignored.
After being drafted in the first round and dominating the NYPL the way he did, the Mets sent Holt directly to High A-Ball, skipping over Low A and to see what he would do.
Again, Holt did not disappoint.
In nine starts with St. Lucie, Holt pitched 43 innings, dominating early and often. He kept his K-rate exceptionally high at 11.22 K/9, and was able to trim his walk rate to 2.7 batters every nine innings. With this great step in his development, the Mets promoted him to AA Binghamton mid-season.
Holt’s stock as a prospect could not have been much better.
He was ranked in Baseball America’s top 100 prospects and rising fast. With a plus fastball, ranging from 93-95 MPH, and a developing change-up and curve ball, the Mets had high hopes for Holt to join their starting rotation within a couple of years.
Unfortunately, in his first start with Binghamton, Holt injured his ankle. He has not been the same pitcher since.
The following chart shows his statistics from both St. Lucie and Binghamton in 2009. After his promotion, this did not seem remotely possible.
It looks like these are two different pitchers.
Instead of everything improving, like a developing prospect should, everything got worse.
He walked more, struck out less. He lost his power fastball, as his velocity dropped from mid to high 90’s down to high 80s - low 90’s. By the end of the year, many scouts were questioning his mental toughness, and as Mike Pelfrey has taught us, that is never a good thing.
Coming into 2010, Holt had a lot of questions to answer.
The main question was: who is the real Brad Holt? The pitcher who dominated the NYPL and St. Lucie? Or, was he the pitcher who got dominated by AA hitters.
As it turned out, his 2010 season made the 2009 Holt look good.
After injuring his wrist in Spring Training, Holt was never able to recover. In ten games, nine starts, with Binghamton, Holt was 1-5 with a 10.20 ERA. The Mets sent him down to try and regain his form in St. Lucie, but he was even worse there. He started 14 games in A+, and finished 2-9 with a 7.48 ERA. After giving up only 36 walks in 2009, he doubled his walks allowed, walking 79 in 2010.
His career as a starting pitcher appeared to be over, and 2011 confirmed that. However, this is not necessarily bad news. Look at the following chart for some encouraging splits.
Holt started 2011 as a starter, and as you can see, he did not pitch well. His control problems continued, walking more batters than he struck out (42 v 39), but all was not lost. His peripheral stats show his stuff was coming back. He gave up less than one hit per inning, and opposing hitters only hit .218 off him.
The best news comes from his stats as a reliever.
As the chart shows, he increased his strike out rate, back to the K/9 rate above nine that he was accustomed to as a starter. He also cut his walk rate in half, and with a K/BB ratio of 2.33/1, he started re-establishing himself as a potential prospect.
What was even more encouraging was that after the all-star break, he was even better.
In the second half of the season, still as a reliever, Holt had a 3:1 K:BB ratio, which is outstanding. He went 4-2, with a 3.80 ERA and WHIP of 0.99, holding opponents to a .182 batting average against, after .220 in the first half.
In the hope that Holt continues to build momentum, and get back on track to the big leagues, I expect the Mets will send him back to AA Binghamton to start the 2012 season (where he ended 2011). However, we have seen power bullpen arms move quickly through the minor leagues before, especially ones with as much talent and the pedigree of a Brad Holt. With that in mind, if Holt impresses this Spring, he will be part of the Mets bullpen sooner rather than later.
No matter where he starts in 2012, Brad Holt took some big steps forward in 2011.
Even though a starting pitcher has more value than a bullpen arm, the fact that Holt has the potential to impact the Mets organization going forward is the most important thing to take away from his 2011 season.
With continued development this offseason, Brad Holt looms as a potential 2012 break out candidate for the Mets organization.