Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

Orioles News arrow-downArrow Down icon Arrow Up icon

Holt finds right fit while wearing two hats

@JoeTrezz
January 6, 2021

In his role as the Orioles’ director of pitching, Chris Holt yo-yoed between Camden Yards and the alternate training site in Bowie, Md., as much as possible last summer. Holt functioned as a resource for the several prospects who crossed over during the course of the season. With big league

In his role as the Orioles’ director of pitching, Chris Holt yo-yoed between Camden Yards and the alternate training site in Bowie, Md., as much as possible last summer.

Holt functioned as a resource for the several prospects who crossed over during the course of the season. With big league pitching coach added to his dual title for 2021, Holt will be much more stationary, and front-facing. But his influence is set to grow in scope.

Prospect Wells 'knocking on the door' | 5 questions for O's

“My primary job is the Major League pitching staff,” Holt said on a Zoom call Wednesday. “The goal of remaining director of pitching is to have a top-down approach and make sure there’s continuity from the Minor League system. We have a great Minor League staff and outreach to every coach on the Minor League side. As far as maintaining the director role, it’s really about continuity.”

Young arms who are set to contribute to the Orioles’ big league staff in 2021 include the already-arrived like Dean Kremer (ranked by MLB Pipeline as the organization’s No. 10 prospect), Keegan Akin (No. 15) and Bruce Zimmermann, plus nearly ready prospects Michael Baumann (No. 9), Zac Lowther (No. 11) and Alexander Wells (No. 19).

Holt has risen with those arms since coming over from the Astros with Mike Elias in 2018, first as the club’s Minor League coordinator, then as director of pitching and now into the big league dugout.

Along the way, Holt was credited with modernizing the organization’s Minor League pitching program through data and technology and aiding the personal development of several of the organization’s recent success stories, including John Means. In 2019, the staffs at each of the O’s Minor League affiliates took major strides, ranking among their league’s best. Last year saw Kremer, Akin and others debut in the Majors, to considerable success. When Baumann, Lowther, Wells and, eventually, Grayson Rodriguez (Orioles' No. 2 prospect) and DL Hall (No. 4) arrive, the idea is for them to have a built-in confidant in Holt.

Though catcher Adley Rutschman, the club’s No. 1 prospect, functions as the face of the O’s revamped system, its strength is in those arms and considerable pitching depth. At the big league level, the O’s staff improved mightily in 2020, but it still ranked third worst in the Majors in ERA since the start of 2019, under former pitching coach Doug Brocail. The O’s tabbed Holt as Brocail’s replacement in November.

“The important thing to remember here is the priority is our Major League pitchers and our Major League team -- winning as many games as we can in 2021 is our goal,” Holt said. “I have the ability to bring in the skill set that I have, that I’ve been working with since I’ve developed as a coach, and I’ve grown with some of these things. The goal is always to be approaching players and the game with a sense of balance between data, numbers, information and feel for the player and situation.”

If the Orioles will have an organizational pitching philosophy under Holt, he said, “We want to make sure we’re using the strengths and natural tendencies of the player himself and trying to get the most out of that player.”

“The other piece we want to make sure of at the lower levels is building a better base of skill from the outset. Some guys will come in with one or two strengths and you build as many strengths as possible. At the big league level, you’re trying to leverage as many strengths as they have.”

Holt’s responsibility is unique in the sense it requires him to consider both. His pitching coach/director of pitching title is the only one of its kind in MLB. The Orioles seem to be out ahead of a broader trend of clubs reimagining the relationship between the Major League and Minor League sides, or at least acknowledging development doesn’t stop in the bigs. The Mets, as one example, recently promoted Minor League pitching coordinator Ricky Meinhold to add big league responsibility to his job description.

Joe Trezza covers the Orioles for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeTrezz.