Talk about being thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Outfielder and 2010 10th round draft pick Tyler Holt was signed to a $500,000 bonus on Saturday early afternoon and then later that night immediately made his professional debut with Low-A Lake County going 1-for-4 with a triple in the contest. The fact he made his debut in Lake County and not at short-season Single-A Mahoning Valley shows how much further along the Indians think he is than most players coming out of the draft.
Holt, 21, was back in the lineup on Sunday afternoon and everyone could tell he was pressing a little bit as in his second at bat with the bases loaded he slammed his bat down in disgust after he flew out for a sacrifice fly. He wasn't necessarily disgusted with the sacrifice fly, but instead was not happy because he felt he had the bat taken out of his hands after some questionable strike calls from the umpire.
Between innings, hitting coach Phil Clark pulled him aside and had a brief conversation with Holt. What Clark said exactly is anyoneâ€™s guess, but it probably went something like this, "Relax kid, you have 500 at bats and 140 games to go this year." Now this late in the season Holt does not really have that many games and at bats left, but you get the idea. He has a long career ahead of him and plenty of time to impress.
But that is how Holt is wired. He's a fiery competitor and lets his emotions show on the field, something you typically don't see from a player in the Indians' organization anywhere from top to bottom. It is going to be a lot of fun to follow his progress not only as a player, but how he adapts to playing everyday and holding some of those emotions in check or else it may wear him out over a full season.
"I was just a little nervous and over-swinging [my first game], so hopefully I settle in," said Holt in an interview with the IPI on Sunday. "I wouldn't want it any other way though [with playing right away]. I am getting a taste of playing everyday. We played four games a week [at Florida State], so playing everyday I need to learn playing my type of style day-in and day-out. It is easy to say when you only have three days a week versus seven days a week, but I am still going to do everything I have done since day one. It is going to be tough [to control my emotions], and I am going to have to learn how to deal with it because that is part of what has got me here."
Holt's intensity and heart are two intangibles few players match. In addition to that, though, he is a pretty talented player and a very interesting leadoff hitting prospect who was arguably the best table-setter in college baseball the past few year who has very good speed, a sound approach at the plate, and plays good defense. He doesn't project as a big league star, but depending on who you talk to the general consensus is he will play in the big leagues some day in some kind of role, be it as a fourth outfielder or a regular.
Now that Holt is in pro ball, in addition to getting used to the everyday grind of playing and developing a routine, he also needs to get accustomed to using wood bats full time. Unlike a lot of players coming into the professional ranks, he has considerable experience using wood bats in the past.
"Yeah, I played a few years in the Cape and I played all summer my sophomore year with Team USA with wood as well, so I am pretty familiar as that is all I have used in the summer and fall," said Holt. "I am pretty acquainted but it is going to take time to get used to it [everyday] as it is very different."
Holt left a great situation at Florida State where he was idolized and in many respects treated like a rock star. He admits that while it was very tough for him to leave Florida State, he had to do what was best for him and that he is happy to be a part of the Indians' organization now.
"The signing process is over and the Indians organization handled it very well," said Holt. "I can't ask anymore out of them as we got the job done, but it was very tough to leave FSU. They have been good to me, and we have been to Omaha two of the last three years. It was really tough as the coach has been great and the fans have been great with nothing but support and love. We came up short this year [in the College World Series], but every year Florida State is always in the running. It's a great program and if you want to be the best that's where you go. But I had to do what's best for me."
Holt was part of a crazy signing process which over the past few years has become a running joke in the industry because so many players now sign on or close to the August 15th deadline. In doing so many players end up missing an important introduction to pro ball in their draft year where had they signed earlier they would play two to three months in short-season or rookie ball, but instead end up playing catchup late in the season and playing just a handful of games. For many, their first true taste of pro ball now comes in the Instructional League that runs in September and October.
In Holt's case, since Florida State played in the College World Series in Omaha, he was happy to get the month and a half off to recuperate after a long college season.
"Florida State was one of the last eight teams to play in Omaha, so it was a good month and a half break," said Holt. "It was good to be home and spend time with family and friends and I just did my own thing until I came up here to get a physical and everything else. I just lifted and hit and it was a much needed rest. I didn't see any live pitching, but that is what these two weeks before the playoffs [and Instructs] are, to get back used to it."
The plan for Holt at this point is to get him acclimated to facing live pitching again and get him some much needed exposure playing in pro ball this year, even if for just a few weeks before going to Instructional League which kicks up in four weeks.
"I will go wherever they want to send me, but hopefully I can move up fast and contribute to the big league team," said Holt. "But I have a few things to learn and I am not there yet. I am just excited to be here with a great team and great coaching staff, and they have accepted me very well and I am very happy."
And as far Holt's goals for this season and beyond?
"Just getting it done," said Holt. "I want to be the best, and I want to win, so hopefully we can get that done."
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. His new book the 2010 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is also available for purchase on Amazon.com or his site.