NEW YORK—As a hard-throwing, high draft pick who flamed out this season, 24-year-old righthander Brad Holt seemed to embody the troubles of the Mets front office.
The 33rd overall pick out of UNC Wilmington in 2008, Holt signed for $1.04 million and made an impact immediately. He starred for short-season Brooklyn, leading the New York-Penn League in ERA (1.87), strikeouts (96) and opponent average (.171).
Last season, former farm director Tony Bernazard singled out Holt as the best starting pitcher in the system. Though he scuffled in 11 starts for Double-A Binghamton, he went 7-7, 4.88 in 20 starts overall, showing power stuff (8.8 strikeouts per nine innings) and solid control (3.2 walks per nine).
But then came 2010, when Holt pitched poorly from start to finish. Not even a demotion to high Class A St. Lucie revived him. He finished a dreadful 3-14, 8.34 in 24 appearances, having allowed 111 hits, 79 walks, 17 hit batters and 23 wild pitches in 95 innings. About the only positives: He struck out 87 and allowed just six homers.
But Holt went to instructional league and then headed to the Arizona Fall League. The early results were not just good, but shocking.
In a trio of three-inning starts for Mesa, he had allowed just one run on four hits, while striking out nine and walking four.
"He seemed to come (to instructional league) able to turn a corner," farm director Adam Wogan said. "That's tough to do.
"I don't know if there's magic to it, but he was able to come in and have a real positive attitude. He was looking to learn and open to anything. He worked well with (pitching coaches) Rick Tomlin and Marc Valdes. He focused on throwing his fastball for strikes. So far, so good."
Wogan continued: "Even in the regular season, he would have (good) stretches. At times, for three or four innings, he'd look like the Brad Holt that we were looking for. (St. Lucie pitching coach) Phil Regan felt strongly that from his side work he was getting close to turning the corner. He would just have that one bad inning.
"Maybe he just needed to get away a little bit, separate and work."
• Daniel Murphy started the first three games at second base for Aguilas of the Dominican League. He started 0-for-8, but clubbed three doubles in his third game to win league player of the week honors.
• Outfielder Kirk Niewenhuis suffered a wrist injury playing in the AFL and sat our four days before returning to action. He got off to a 6-for-22 (.273) start with a pair of doubles and four walks.