Fast-riser Holt lives up to expectations
Few college pitchers saw their stock rise more than Brad Holt last spring. Holt dazzled scouts while pitching for UNC Wilmington in the Cary Regional against Elon when his fastball in the eighth inning registered at 94 mph—the same velocity that flashed across scouts' radar guns in the first inning.
Holt took some knocks for a lack of secondary pitches but was still nabbed by the Mets with the 33rd overall pick in the supplemental first round. "I only threw my breaking ball a few times and I only threw my changeup a few times more than once or twice," Holt said of Eagles' 5-2 win.
Holt shot up many teams' draft boards, yet his early selection still came as a bit of a surprise. However Holt has rewarded the Mets with a stellar professional debut this summer.
"He was well scouted from the get-go," Mets director of amateur scouting Rudy Terrasas said. "Everybody came away from seeing him saying, 'Hey, you gotta see this guy.' I was in agreement with our scouts. This was a guy we were excited about."
The Mets believe that Holt's secondary pitches did not necessarily need polish. Instead, he simply needs to throw those pitches with more frequency and become more comfortable throwing them in the process.
"I can't get by with just my fastball," Holt said. "Now that I'm throwing my breaking ball and changeup, it's much better."
Holt signed for $1.04 million and joined Brooklyn, where he has been focusing on throwing both his breaking ball and changeup with more consistency.
"It's a matter of using it," Terrasas said. "The more (he) uses it, the better it's going to get."
Pitching in short-season has paid dividends for Holt.
Holt was 4-3, 1.98 in 11 starts with the Cyclones and earned a spot on the New York-Penn League all-star team. He had 69 strikeouts and 27 walks in 55 innings and had limited hitters to a .198 opponents average. The highlight of Holt's season came when he struck out 14 Vermont batters and yielded just two hits in six shutout innings during a late July start.
"He has been getting the experience of pitching against more advanced hitters and he is figuring out how to get them out," Terrasas said.
Terrasas believes that Holt will advance through the system quickly once he starts to make outs with his secondary stuff.
"Right now, he's off to a good start," Terrasas said. "He's right on track."
Moore In Store For Rays
Ray Birmingham recruited lefthander Matt Moore to New Mexico Junior College, which was Moore's backup school, and Birmingham hoped the Edgewood, N.M., native would follow him when Birmingham became the University of New Mexico's head coach. After all, Moore's brother Bobby already was pulling double duty for the Lobos.
Birmingham's Lobos went 34-25, reversing the program's trend of three losing seasons out of the previous four. But the younger Moore wasn't part of it, having signed as an eighth-round pick of the Rays in 2007.
"I thought in either case I was going to get him, right? Wrong," Birmingham said. "We were only six outs away from making (the NCAA tournament) for the first time since 1962, and I think Matt would have made that difference.
"When you're that raw and you're still touching 94, that's pretty good. He was un-molded clay for somebody to mold, so he's had some good coaching because he's stepped it up. Matt's got a chance to be on TV here real soon."
Now Moore is part of an organization reversing course on a grander scale. As the big league Rays turn in a worst-to-first season, Moore has emerged as one of the farm system's better talents at Rookie-level Princeton. Through his first 10 starts he was 2-2, 2.03 with 64 strikeouts and 16 walks in 44 innings.
"He's fun to watch because he's so electric," Princeton manager Joe Szekely said. "The ball comes out of his hand so good and it's been nice just to watch him mature and realize that each pitch complements each other. And he's a good worker—everything is business. At such a young age, that's such a great thing to have because the quicker they figure that out—whether it be in the weight room, or running or side work—it all starts there."
Moore uses an arsenal that includes a four-seam fastball that sits 92-95 mph along with a changeup and a slider. Moore has been on a pitch count limiting him to 75 pitches per game, Szekley said
"I think he'll be a major league starter if nothing happens to him and he stays healthy," an American League scout said. "He's got three pitches and he keeps getting better, so I don't see why he can't be a major league starter."
Another AL scout went a little further, saying that Moore's combination of stuff and makeup gives him the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher in the big leagues.
"I'm going back a ways, but he kind of reminds me of Tom Browning," the scout said. "He's kind of got that bulldog-type of approach. Those types of guys just win — they get to the big leagues and they stay there."
Moore credits the development of his changeup as the reason for his success this season.
"My changeup's really come along and it's becoming a pitch that I'm not afraid to throw in a full count or a 2-2 count," Moore said. "It's becoming a weapon."
Moore said Princeton pitching coach Marty DeMerritt, a former big league pitching coach with more than 35 years in the baseball business, has been a tremendous asset.
"He's helped me out with so much more than just the changeup," Moore said. "He's helped me out just getting adjusted to the lifestyle. He's helped me mentally more than anything."
Moore said he's felt more comfortable this year and is enjoying his time in the Appalachian League.
"You visit some nice little towns," he said. "It's not bad because you come to these small towns and the baseball team that's here for the summer, that's what people do. These people look forward to having minor league baseball players coming to their city and playing every year. It's a good league with a lot of talent and it's pretty fun."