Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Report: John Holdzkom
By Jason Arias
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The Pittsburgh Pirates number 22 prospect is pitcher John Holdzkom out of Salt Lake Community College. He was drafted in the 2006 draft by the Mets just 14 picks after the Pirates picked Jared Hughes. Having just turned 28, Holdzkom is one of the older prospects on the list therefore he’s got plenty of experience under his belt.
Holdzkom has had a long journey through the ranks of professional baseball beginning with the Mets in 2006. In 2009, he had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire year before resurfacing with the Reds and eventually traveling to play in Australia in 2012.
He then spent 2013 and most of 2014 in independent leagues hoping for another shot when the Pirates gave him one; Holdzkom struck out the side in his debut and made the playoff roster. If you recognize the name from recent news, it’s from the tragic passing of his brother and former Pirate prospect Lincoln this offseason.
Despite all of that, however, Holdzkom has gotten back on the right track and could see himself back in Pittsburgh as early as this season.
After a poor start to his career as a starting pitcher, Holdzkom has completely reinvented himself as a reliever and with the current state of the bullpen in Pittsburgh, Holdzkom will certainly be in the conversation throughout spring training.
In his first 4 seasons, Holdzkom posted a 6-7 record with a 5.38 record; after making one start in the United States over the past 7 years, Holdzkom has posted a 4-0 record with a 2.86 ERA as a reliever.
At every level, Holdzkom has racked up the strikeouts. He hasn’t struck out less than 10 batters per nine innings since rookie-ball with the Mets in 2007 and struck out 20 in his first 10 innings back from Tommy John surgery in 2010. He has a live fastball that can reach 100 mph and a changeup that makes it seem even faster.
At one point, Holdzkom’s biggest problem was his lack of control but since joining the Pirates, he seems to have it figured out. He was revisited by these control problems at Indianapolis in 2015 but was apparently dealing with shoulder issues.
As for the future, there is a good chance Holdzkom will become a member of the major league roster in 2016. It probably wont come right out of spring training, but FanGraphs does project him for 25 major league innings. In those 25 innings, he’s projected to walk 11 and strike out 28 which seems about right.
Holdzkom has the stuff to be a closer in the future but he’ll need to work on a pitch other than his fastball and consistently hit the strike zone before he’ll be given a shot. Mark Melancon will be the closer on Opening Day and so perhaps Holdzkom will close in the minors or work as a set-up man in the majors, but with Melancon being an upcoming free agent, Holdzkom could be the closer in 2017.