Is John Holdzkom a lock for the 2015 Pittsburgh Pirates?


John Holdzkom became a folklore hero very quickly in Pittsburgh in late 2014.  With his gangling arms, tall frame and “aw shucks” demeanor, Holdzkom quickly won the fans over.  More important than all of the intangibles, he was   flat-out dominant in tight spots.

In 32 plate appearances spanning nine outings, opposing hitters tallied just two earned runs on four hits last season. Even more impressive, he struck out 14 in those appearances, which totaled nine innings.

Looking a bit deeper, it can be argued that he really only had one bad inning all year (working the seventh inning in a 10-6 loss against the Cincinnati Reds on Sept. 27), in which both of his two runs and half of his four hits allowed occurred.  Not bad at all for a September call-up.

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However, with the additions of Radhames Liz and Arquimedes Caminero, all eyes immediately turn to Holdzkom as a strong choice to be bumped back down to Triple-A.  Through no fault of his own, the Pirates still have options with Holdzkom, so he can be sent back down to the minors safely.

That may sting Pirates fans, but the truth is, we didn’t really see his full arsenal last year.  According to his pitchf/x chart on Fangraphs, he threw 105 four-seam fastballs and 10 cutters.  To put that in perspective, he threw 123 pitches all year.  

To say that Russell Martin and Ray Searage held him in check would be an understatement.  Holdzkom also possesses a changeup, slider and two-seamer but those were rarely seen.  His velocity is so good that the changeup clocks in at about 85 mph.  The stuff is definitely there, we just haven’t had a chance to see it all yet.

Looking a bit towards the shark tank itself, we have some certainty at the top with returning closer Mark Melancon, as well as Tony Watson and Jared Hughes holding down their respective roles.  The coaching staff’s affinity for Stolmy Pimentel almost guarantees him a role of some kind. I haven’t even mentioned Antonio Bastardo yet.  That’s a lot of bodies for only a few spots.

Based on the great unknown, the lack of minor league options for others, and the fact that Caminero and Liz can throw just as hard, I wouldn’t buy that John Holdzkom jersey just yet.

Next: The Pittbsurgh Pirates acquire Arquimedes Caminero