Holt Could Eventually Be Cleveland’s Utility Outfielder

Tyler Holt does not have the speed of a healthy Michael Bourn. He does not have the power of a Brandon Moss. He doesn’t, nor do many baseball players, have the overall game of a Michael Brantley.

In short, the 25-year-old outfielder is never going to supplant any of the above as an every day player in what is projected to be Tribe’s outfield on most days. However, he may be just what the Indians need coming off the bench.

It is unlikely that Holt will be with Cleveland when the club breaks camp for the start of the regular season. That is not for a lack of usefulness and more due to a logjam in the outfield spots. Beyond the three likely starters – Moss will see time at first base and designated hitter, as well – the Indians also have veteran backups in David Murphy and Ryan Raburn signed to guaranteed contracts this season.

However, Raburn and Murphy each had 2014 campaigns marred by injury that led to seasons that did not equal expectations. Both players are 33 and are not locks to bounce back.

Murphy hit .262 last season. As for Raburn, his 2014 was a little more disconcerting. He followed a disastrous final season in Detroit in 2012 with an excellent comeback campaign in 2013 with the Tribe. He was so impressive as a reserve in that Cleveland inked him to a two-year contract extension. Before landing on the disabled list at the end of the year, Raburn as having a second horrible season in three years, hitting just .200 with four homers and 22 RBI.

Between those two, outfielder/first baseman/DH Nick Swisher is coming back from surgeries on both knees, Moss is coming back from offseason hip surgery and Bourn has battled hamstring injuries the last two years. That leaves Brantley as the only outfielder among the regulars of the last two years to be coming into spring training completely free of health concerns.

All of that means the door is open to a guy like Holt to make an impression and likely see time in the big leagues at some point this season. Last year, Holt made his Major League debut on July 6. He was in the Majors for much of August and September as guys like Swisher, Bourn, Raburn and Murphy were on the DL at various times. Holt played extensively.

The 2014 rookie was not great at the plate, but was not completely blown away, either. He hit a respectable .268, with 19 hits in 71 at bats. He had zero homers with two BI and stole a pair of bases. The offensive numbers were about in line with his minor league stats, where he has been an decent contact hitter, with little power.

Where has been most impressive is in the field. He did not commit an error in 189.1 Major League innings, covering all three outfield spots.

On team with injury risks all over the place in the outfield, having a guy with the ability to play all three spots and play them well is important.

Barring a preseason injury or trade, however, Holt will likely have to bide his time at Triple-A Columbus before having another opportunity with the Tribe.

Moss and Swisher are both expected to be back for Opening Day, though some doubts linger about Swisher. Cleveland manager Terry Francona will be cautious with his leadoff hitter Bourn during spring games.

Murphy or Raburn could be traded. However, what is more likely is that one or both will struggle to start the year and be a candidate to be cut. That would be more like to be Raburn, whose $2.5 million guaranteed salary for this season would be a little easier for the Indians to eat than Murphy’s $7 million.

Whether or not, however, any preseason injuries, trades or cuts happen, it is a near certainty that Holt will with the Indians at some point. Injuries are a fact of life in baseball. With the Indians and their outfield, it could be a question of when and not if Holt’s services will be required.

Holt, regardless, has positioned himself as Cleveland’s top minor league outfield prospect and the number one guy to be called up when needed. He will be in the Tribe’s outfield and some point this season and will not be a hindrance when he is called upon. He is the type of utility player that a team looking to contend this season could use a safeguard against injuries or ineffectiveness to other players.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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