Brad Holt was known as a flamethrower out of UNC-Wilmington. When the Mets drafted him in 2008, all the scouting reports said: fastball 93-96, secondary pitches coming, back-end starter. But as ESPN’s Keith Law put it in a 2008 scouting report, Holt is nothing more than a “setup man”.
Holt teased Mets fans immediately after he was drafted. After overpowering the New York Penn League, Holt started 2009 in St. Lucie, showing promise, but a mid-season promotion ultimately derailed Holt from stardom. Since being promoted to Double-A Binghamton, Holt’s combined earned run average has been 7.19.
His blazing fastball is still there, but without control. Dubbed a strikeout machine out of college, Holt has a 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season in Binghamton — nothing to write home about. Fans can say, “but opponents are hitting .219 off of him!” Of course they are, but walks don’t account for opponents’ averages.
As of June 16, following two starts in which Holt surrendered more than 5 earned runs in 3 innings, he was moved to the bullpen. There, he has seen limited action, and has walked more than 2 batters on three occasions.
Were the Mets too aggressive?
Now the Mets have another issue. 2010 first-round pick Matt Harvey is struggling after a mid-season promotion to AA Binghamton. Granted, he’s only made three starts, but it suggests that the Mets were wise for being conservative with their prized arm. What if Harvey had been called up in May after dominating the first month of pro ball? Would he turn out to be the next Brad Holt? Or maybe the next Mike Pelfrey — whose inconsistency has been blamed by many for being rushed as well?
Harvey’s next scheduled start is going to be more important than the stat line; it will be a mental test. For those planning to attend or listen, Harvey needs to locate his pitches better. After a promising second start (5 IP, 5 H, 5 K, 2 R), his most recent start was awful: 3 IP, 7 ER, 6 H, 2 HR, 1 BB, 5 K His next start will show whether he can bounce back and make the adjustments necessary to compete at the AA level. Part of that is physical, but part of it is also mental.
And that’s what separates the men from the boys: baseball is a mental game. Two months ago, I met the former Chicago Cubs scout who signed Kerry Wood. While we were browsing through the Barnes and Noble baseball section, what he told me that day was nothing new: Mike Pelfrey is a head case and should be traded immediately.
The scout also told me that if Pelfrey were in any city other than New York, he’d be dominating. The scout made perfect sense. Pelfrey hits the mid-90s occasionally during his starts, but why not consistently? A top selection in a draft should not be losing velocity like Pelfrey has.
Mets fans saw the period of the mouthpiece Pelfrey used to sport, to help control his nerves. We also saw the time when Pelfrey looked like a lost puppy on the mound. What happened to Pelfrey’s power arm? It was there in his major league debut — I remember when I was watching in a third-base luxury box!
With interesting arms in Harvey, Darin Gorski, Jeurys Familia, and recently signed compensation pick Michael Fulmer, the Mets should remain slow with their pitching crop. It’s the first time in a long time that the Mets have rebuilt their farm system, slowly but surely gaining the respect of the prospect gurus.
Since the Mets drafted pitcher-heavy this year, Brad Holt serves as a reminder that anything can happen. One week you may appear on the Baseball America Hot Sheet, the next week, you’re a reliever with nothing but the 7th inning to look forward to.