Diamond in the Rough: Trevor Holloway
By Andy Singer July 19, 2020
The 2020 MLB Draft was unprecedented for numerous reasons. Among others, the most obvious is that the draft was just 5 rounds in length, coming from 40 rounds in the preceding years. Generally speaking, this allowed teams to save money, given that significant prospects are generally taken through at least the first 15 rounds of the draft. More to the point, teams are allocated a budget for the first 10 rounds based on their performance during the previous season. With only 5 rounds in this year’s draft, MLB teams did not have to allocate funding for draft picks after their 5th round picks. In fact, Undfrafted Free Agents could only be signed for a maximum of $20,000 following the 2020 MLB Draft.
Generally speaking, this cost-saving measure was bad for both the development pools of Major League teams and the players themselves. Legitimate prospects who might have been selected in rounds 5-15 had no reason to sign for a relative pittance when they could return to school and hope for selection in the 2021 MLB Draft under more normal circumstances, so it has been generally accepted that very few real prospects would be signed as Undrafted Free Agents. Despite that generalization, I believe that Yankee Free Agent signing, Trevor Holloway, may be the exception to that rule.
On the surface, there’s not much to see. Holloway bounced around throughout his amateur years, beginning his career in unspectacular fashion at High Point University, before transferring to the Junior College ranks at Chipola College, with whom Holloway won an NJCAA title. Holloway finished his college career at UCF in the weekend rotation, though his 2019 was cut significantly short due to a bicep injury. Additionally, Holloway’s mechanics leave a lot to be desired, particularly when examining the video above. Holloway has almost no drive with his legs, completing his delivery in a near upright position, leading to likely diminished velocity, increased stress on joints and ligaments in his arm, and flatter stuff. To put the cherry on top, Holloway is already 23 years old, well beyond the age where most prospects would be on the prospect radar. So why am I interested?
There is more here than meets the eye. In the video posted at the top of this article, note that many of the swings and misses are on a pitch diving down and away from batters. Obviously, this camera angle does not allow you to see the pitch hitters are flailing at. While I know it’s hard to see, trust me when I say that the pitch is a slider. Here is what that pitch looked like in 2018 when Holloway closed out the win when his team won the NJCAA Championship:
Holloway closes this one out! Chipola wins 14-13 in 10 innings! #NJCAABaseball pic.twitter.com/jUy5donCd2 — NJCAA Championship TV (@NJCAAChampsTV) May 30, 2018
That is a nasty, well-placed slider on the outside corner. Eyeballing it, the slider looks to be in the low-80s, which matches the scouting report Prospects Live has publicized. The slider, even without improvement since 2018, looks like a legitimate put-away pitch.
Taking a second look, Holloway’s numbers throughout his collegiate career look good after his tough Freshman season at High Point. Of particular interest, Holloway’s strikeout rate jumped this year from close to a batter per inning throughout his last couple of seasons, to 14.69 K/9 in limited action during the shortened 2020 campaign. Shortly following the draft, Anthony Franco over at Prospects Live, a respected scouting service, ranked Holloway as one of the top Undrafted Free Agents available on the market, noting his sinking low-90s fastball and above-average slider with good command. Most importantly, the article notes that his stuff appeared to be all the way back to where it was prior to biceps tendinitis issues during the 2019 season.
Still other articles note Holloway’s commitment to analytics to continually improve his performance. While that sounds really nice, Holloway’s own public tweets indicate that these reports are more than just lip service. Check out the numbers that Holloway posted below from a recent bullpen session:
5/14/20 bullpen. @FlatgroundApp @UCF_Baseball pic.twitter.com/nq5tjAeSVc — Trevor Holloway (@bluedevils2020) May 18, 2020
For those uninitiated, the post is a screenshot from Rapsodo, a hugely popular radar tracking device that delivers the type of statistics compiled at the MLB level by Statcast. While this was obviously a long bullpen session judging from the number of pitches logged, I think that the pitches visible to the public give us some very interesting insight into what Holloway’s fastball is right now. From pitches 76-89, Holloway averaged 94.84 MPH and 2432 True Spin (a Rapsodo-specific measurement that quantifies spin rate that actually affects movement). Compared to pitchers who threw at least 250 pitches last season, those numbers put Holloway in the 77th and 86th percentile, respectively. While his slider gets the majority of praise in scouting reports, Holloway’s fastball appears to have found another gear since baseball in the US shutdown.
Yes, Holloway is old for a prospect just entering the professional ranks. No, his change-up is not likely a usable 3rd pitch as a pro, which likely makes Holloway a reliever as a professional. However, Holloway’s fastball and slider are somewhere between above-average and plus, and with poor mechanics at last check, there is plenty of room for the Yankees to find improvement in Holloway’s performance. In fact, the Yankees have earned a reputation in the last 2-3 years of helping pitchers in their farm system find additional velocity and spin. Given that Holloway is rough around the edges, it is entirely that he is the next Yankee farmhand to find more stuff, particularly with his acceptance and interest in using data to improve his performance.
It is likely true that the majority of Undrafted Free Agents signed in 2020 will not become legitimate prospects. However, I think Trevor Holloway might be the exception. While Holloway may not be a starting pitcher as a professional both due to his lack of a 3rd pitch and for the sake of quicker development at his already advanced age for a prospect, he could rise quickly through the minors with his steadily advancing stuff and command, use of analytics for self-improvement, and the Yankee development team’s proven ability to help prospects improve mechanics and velocity. You probably won’t hear about Holloway much for the remainder of this year, but look for Holloway to carve out a spot on Yankee minor league rosters beginning in 2021.