ASHEVILLE, N.C.—Rockies third baseman Darin Holcomb doesn’t attract the same attention as some of the high profile prospects he competed against in the low Class A South Atlantic League—such as Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton or Jesus Montero—but his performance didn’t go unnoticed by those who saw him or his organization.
The 22-year-old was named the league’s most valuable player after putting up a .318/.400/.491 line for Asheville, and his name could be found all over the league’s leaderboards—fourth in average, first in RBIs (102) and doubles (42), second in hits (162) and on-base percentage and third in runs scored (89).
“He was named MVP for a reason,” Rockies farm director Marc Gustafson said. “His peers and the managers that managed against him saw the same thing—a very consistent player.”
A 12th-round pick in 2007 from Gonzaga, Holcomb hit over .300 in all three of his college seasons, capped off by a .369/.456/.519 campaign as a junior in 2007. He then hit .303/.391/.523 for short-season Tri-City of the Northwest League, and carried that success into this season with Asheville.
Holcomb helped lead the Tourists to a first-half division title and earned a trip to the league’s all-star game.
“It was tough, being my first full season.” Holcomb said. “One hundred-forty games is a lot, but I think just going through the ups and downs and staying consistent, that was my biggest goal. I think I accomplished that.”
There weren’t many downs for Holcomb. He didn’t hit below .280 in any month of the season, and his most impressive feat was his streak of reaching base in 58 consecutive games from late May through early August.
“He was the glue to their offense for the entire year, from the start to the end,” Gustafson said.
Holcomb isn’t your typical big slugging third baseman. Not yet, at least. He hit 14 home runs this year, but you might’ve expected more since he played his home games in Asheville’s McCormick Field, one of the minors’ more hitter-friendly environments. Instead, he’s a gap-to-gap hitter with line drive power.
The Rockies feel he may develop along a similar track as Garrett Atkins, their current third baseman who’s moved over to first base in Todd Helton’s absence. A college draftee like Holcomb, Atkins never hit more than 15 home runs in any of his minor league seasons, but is on the verge of hitting over 20 for the third straight year in the majors.
The major difference between the two is size. Atkins is 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, while Holcomb stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 205 pounds, but the Rockies feel Holcomb can develop 20-25 home run power down the road.
“You can’t try to do too much, especially as you move up,” Holcomb said. “You can’t try and hit for power. You’ve just got to let things roll and go with it.”
Holcomb’s approach at the plate is one of his best attributes. He had more walks than strikeouts in two of his three college seasons and in both of his professional stops, and the Rockies praised him for his sound situational approach as well as his solid defense at the hot corner.
“From day one, he’s been one of the most consistent hitters in the league, and I think he’s got a great future ahead of him,” Asheville manager Joe Mikulik said.
For now, Holcomb’s future will take him to Hawaii Winter Baseball. The Rockies aren’t planning to tinker with him much at this point, but they’re anxious to see how he performs against the more the advanced pitching he’ll face in Hawaii.