MAGUIRE: Holt Shows Value of Baseball’s Utility Men
The Wind-Up

As a Boston Red Sox fan, there hasn’t been a lot to be excited about this season. The Red Sox pitching staff is the worst in the American League and the third worst in baseball. And its offense and defense is mediocre at best.

It is honestly a miracle that it’s only five games out of first place.

With these struggles in mind, the Red Sox didn’t have a clear All-Star-caliber player. Although none were selected as starters, baseball requires that all 30 teams be represented at the Midsummer Classic.

So for the last couple weeks, my dad and I had been debating who from our beloved, mediocre team would be playing.

With four-time All-Star second baseman Dustin Pedroia on the disabled list, there were seemingly only two choices: shortstop Xander Bogaerts or utility man Brock Holt.

My dad was team Xander. I was team Brock.

And sure, my dad’s reasons were legitimate. Bogaerts is a burgeoning star. This season, he is hitting .304. And that is after a slow offensive start to the season; he is hitting .338 since June. He also ranks second among shortstops in the American League in fielding percentage.

Meanwhile Holt is hitting .293 and has .379 on base percentage, which would make him one of the league leaders among qualifying players. But as of June 10, he had not yet played enough games to be considered.

Nonetheless, Holt has done everything asked of him. He has played 22 games at second base — his natural position. He has spent 17 games in right field, 15 at third base and 12 in left field, not to mention eight games at short and six at first base. And he has played two games at center.

A side-by-side comparison of the pair’s seasons suggests Bogaerts should be traveling to Cincinnati. (Note: Bogaerts is one of five in contention to fill the final roster spot in the American League’s Final Vote.)

While the realist in me recognizes that the All-Star game is about merit, statistics and pure numbers, I believe if only one Red Sox should be in Cincinnati, it should be Holt.

And apparently I wasn’t the only one.

This year’s American League manager, Kansas City manager Ned Yost, chose Holt to be a part of his All-Star roster. When asked about his choice, Yost explained that Holt was a super-utility player, which would give him flexibility in the later innings of the game.

Yost’s selection was undoubtedly made with the roster in mind. In the All-Star game, players only play a couple of innings, and a player who can play seven of the nine positions is a huge asset.

Now Holt, who did not get a start this year until Boston’s fifth game, will now make his first All-Star appearance.

Just like his first two seasons in Boston, Holt was not guaranteed any sort of consistent playing time entering this year. Acquired as a throw-in piece in the Joel Hanrahan trade during the 2012 offseason, the young second baseman had two options: adjust his role or compete with franchise player Pedroia for playing time.

Holt has since morphed into a seven-position player, with a .280 career average and a .340 on-base percentage.

As Yost said, a super-utility player like Holt not only deserves but needs to be recognized.

Utility players are unlike other players in that they don’t have the immediate “star-power.” Whether it be speed or power, these players provide significant value in ways that are more subtle.

Take Ben Zobrist. Zobrist is a veteran utility player and was a critical part of the Tampa Bay Rays recent success before being traded to the Athletics. He’s a two-time All-Star and has received MVP votes.

Last year, the Pirates’ Josh Harrison surprised the league with a breakout season. As a first-time All-Star, he played 72 games at third, 26 in right field, 26 in left field, 17 at second base and eight at shortstop, all the while hitting .315. Another example is Nick Punto, who had a 13-year career playing almost every position.

While utility players are sometimes recognized for their contributions, they are far too often overlooked.

Baseball has a 162-game season. Inevitably, there will be injuries, players who need rest and slumps. Having a high-caliber player who can fill in at various positions, with little to no drop off, is invaluable.

In a couple months’ time, baseball’s Most Valuable Player will be revealed. And while I will not be naive enough to crown a winner now, I am almost certain Holt will not receive a single vote. But that is not to say this emerging utility player doesn’t deserve to be an All-Star.

Carolyn Headshot


Carolyn Maguire is a rising senior in the College. The Wind-Up appears every Saturday.

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