Holt Continues to Adjust While Growing in Tribe’s System
By Mike Brandyberry
Hard work and patience often results in personal growth and achievement. It’s the formula Cleveland Indians farmhand Tyler Holt hopes will take him to the big leagues some day soon.
While 2012 was a very positive year resulting in development and progress for Holt, the road has not always been easy for him as a professional. Despite a strong amateur and collegiate career, Holt has had to make mechanical adjustments to continue to thrive as a professional. The hard work and adjustments saw Holt thrive at three different levels last season.
“You’re never satisfied, but I was happy I learned way more than I expected,” Holt said. “I don’t think you are ever satisfied though, even when you make it to the league. If I can just have a good process and learn more than I thought I would, or I go about it doing the right thing, then I’m happy. The results will come if you really buy into the system and the process, you’ll be fine.”
Holt was a tenth round selection by the Indians in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State University. He signed on Aug. 14, one day before the deadline, and reported immediately to Low-A Lake County where he hit .286 in 70 at bats, with a .409 on-base percentage and five stolen bases.
In 2011, the speedy centerfielder and leadoff hitter batted only .254, with 34 stolen bases, but struck out 106 times and saw his on-base percentage fall to .365 at High-A Kinston. Holt had to make mechanical adjustments in his swing, beginning that fall in the Arizona Fall Instructional League. He took those adjustments to Spring Training last year and returned to the Carolina League with then-Mudcats Hitting Coach Scooter Tucker.
Tucker, who now has accepted a position as the Lake County Captains Manager for 2013, worked with Holt to make adjustments and improve his swing. The results paid off with a strong start in the Carolina League.
“I came into Spring Training really well with good at bats and good swings,” Holt said. “I took it to the Carolina League and really excelled for the first month and a half. Then, I let outside things and decisions affect things and my mentality and it got me in a slump. I got in a slump and tried to change things back to the old way to get comfortable and things continued to go poorly.”
Holt eventually pulled out of his late-May slump and accepted his changes, continuing to flourish and grow. Even with inconsistencies and bumps in the road, Holt hit .263, with 10 doubles and seven triples at Carolina before receiving a late-July promotion to Double-A with the Akron Aeros.
“I backed off and let things happen again and went back to the way things were working in Spring Training,” Holt said. “I got the call to Double-A and continued to work on my swing. It’s an ongoing process. To make it to a big league swing, you have to be never satisfied. You have to be as consistent as you can.”
Making the leap from the A-ball level to Double-A is one of the biggest jumps in a minor league player’s progression. At the Double-A level, most pitchers have developed Major League quality pitches, but are still working to develop consistency. For Holt, he was working to develop consistency of his own, both in his swing and acceptance that sometimes that when everything goes well for him, at the Double-A level, it doesn’t always result in a hit.
Holt felt the changes in quality of play and again had to adjust. His adjustments came while hitting second in the order for the Aeros, the best team in the Eastern League all season. Akron went on to win the Eastern League Championship, with Holt playing center field the second half of the season.
“The consistency of facing great pitching, day-in and day-out, who know how to pitch,” Holt said. “You have to worry about having good at bats and if you don’t, the statistics will show. I would say consistency in learning my swing every day and you can’t be content with results, or if you square four balls up and you don’t have anything to show, you have to know that’s baseball. If you feel like you are having great at bats, you have nothing to complain about.”
Holt finished the second half of his season hitting .250, with five doubles and two triples in 216 at bats at Double-A. His development and work was rewarded with a unique challenge, playing in the Arizona Fall League.
The AFL is premier winter league for organizations to send their best prospects to play with and against one another in a six-week season. Holt, along with six other Indians minor leaguers, were selected for the opportunity.
“Going to the Fall League, I was surrounded by the best of the best in each organization,” Holt said. “It was a very eye-opening experience to see that I can play with the best. I think I showed that and can build off of that. I showed that if I continue to put in the work, improve my swing and my defense, nothing can stop me if I keep working hard.”
Holt, and his newly developed swing, thrived against prospects mostly from the Double-A and Triple-A level, hitting .300, with 18 hits in 60 at bats. One challenge for Holt in this fall was leaving the comfort zone of his natural position, center field. Holt played both left field and right field this fall with the Scottsdale Scorpions.
“I’m glad I went out to the Fall League and had that opportunity,” Holt said. “I’m uncomfortable in left and right, but if I can play those positions, it can only open other doors form me.”
Becoming a more versatile outfielder, combined with his speed, can only help his development and opportunity in the Tribe’s system. Heading to 2013, he could begin the season in Double-A with the Aeros or possibly Triple-A with the Columbus Clippers. Holt tries to not get caught up with where Indians brass will place him to start the season, or on a log-jammed outfield at the big league level with Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs and Nick Swisher all under team control for the foreseeable future.
“You gotta stay zoned in because if you start worrying about that stuff that’s when you go downhill,” Holt said. “You just play every day and let everything else unfold. I just try to do the best that I can and let everything else happen.”
The hard-nosed, gritty, speedster knows his swing will continue to be a work in progress in 2013, and through his entire career, but his goals entering Spring Training remain simple.
“If you can just get better every day and work on the things you need to work on, and play the game right, everything will unfold the way it should be,” Holt said. “Don’t look back or look forward, just keep your mind in the moment and let things happen.”
Photo: Matthew White/DTTWLN photographer