AFL Spotlight: Tyler Holt and Alex Monsalve
The Arizona Fall League wrapped up last week, and I provided profiles on six of the eight players with spotlight pieces on Shawn Armstrong, Trey Haley, T.J. House, Carlos Moncrief, Matt Packer, and Ronny Rodriguez.
I was able to speak to all of those players in person during my recent visit to Arizona and also touched base with several of them throughout their season in the AFL, but the two players that I was unable to talk to at all for various reasons were outfielder Tyler Holt and catcher Alex Monsalve. But, even though I did not get to speak to either of them, I wanted to be sure to provide an update on them so as to not make it seem like I ignored them.
I actually spoke to Holt for an interview earlier in the year which I never got around to posting, so I have included quotes from that below. I did not get a chance to talk to Monsalve this year, but I have also talked to the Indians and lots of people outside the organization about him so have provided some thoughts and insight on him below.
Holt, 23, had another solid campaign this season for the Indians hitting .258 with 0 HR, 34 RBI, and .660 OPS in 136 combined games between High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron. While those numbers probably look unimpressive, it is the other stats where he piled up 29 stolen bases and 62 walks (.340 on-base percentage) that stand out.
Holt’s value to the Indians is as a guy that puts up professional, quality at bats, gets on base, can steal bases, and is a very good defender in the outfield with versatility where he can play all three outfield positions. What makes him even more valuable is that he hits right-handed, which considering how left-handed heavy the Indians’ outfield is in Cleveland, he could be a good complement down the road as a fourth outfielder or a platoon-type player.
Those traits that he brings to the table are things that are probably not going to change much at this point as he is what he is, so it is more about him learning to be more consistent with his performance. With the reputation of being a hot head and an extremely emotional player, he is really working on controlling his emotions and effort level over a long six month season.
“I don’t think I have a complete understanding, but I definitely know it is more mental than anything else,” Holt said. “You can go 3-for-4 one night and then 0-for-5 the next. You just have to take every at bat for what it is and then just move forward. I think that is the biggest thing for me. I am still learning and have a hot head once in awhile, but once I get a better understanding and rhythm I think it is a lot easier.”
Holt is one of the hardest workers in the organization. He works like he plays the game: hard. But it is developing that balance of knowing when to go full throttle and when to lay off the gas that has been something he really has worked to try and manage.
“I have to understand this is a game and it is a process,” Holt said. “When I am on the field and it is game time I am full throttle when I need to be, but I have toned down the pre-game stuff to where I can save my energy. You have to take every at bat seriously, but you also have to relax your body and mind. If you are just mentally thinking the whole time for five or six months, it is pretty gruesome. When you are away from the field you are away from the field. When I get here and it is game time and I get those four or five at bats and I treat them as if they were my last. Once that at bat is over, I have to go on to the next one. You can’t carry an at bat over. I think that is the toughest part, and I think I am doing a better job of understanding what it takes and what I have to do.”
Holt will never hit for a lot of power, but he has some strength and an ability to pound the ball gap to gap. He had a little bit of a problem in 2011 at High-A Kinston where he was getting under more pitches than he should, so he really spent the 2012 season trying to get his swing down and made a change from a crouched stance to a more upright one. The changes have helped and he hopes that they will pave the way to a more consistent line drive stroke.
“I am continuing to try to get better with my swing path,” Holt said. “Not to hit home runs per se, but get that hard contact flow to where I am gap to gap. I used to be crouched, so I am more upright now. I think I was too spread out where there was nowhere to go but up with my swing path. That is one of my main concerns and what I am trying to get better with every day.”
Holt had a good showing in the recently completed Arizona Fall League hitting .300 with 0 HR, 8 RBI and .653 OPS in 17 games. It was yet another solid, unspectacular showing, but his consistency continues to improve and he could be in the big league mix very soon as an extra outfielder. If he stays healthy and continues to develop, perhaps he could be in the big leagues by the end of next season or sometime in 2014.
“I am just trying to get better every day,” Holt said. “It is a process, and I am just trying to learn it as best I can and use those things I learn to the next day. I just want to get better and understand the game a lot more and get to a point where I know what to expect and how to do things the right way and continue to do that at every level. Just go out there and play ball.”
Monsalve probably had the best showing of any Indians prospect in the AFL as he hit .340 with 0 HR, 6 RBI, and .807 OPS in 13 games. The sample size was small, but offensively he did not look overwhelmed for a player yet to play above the High-A level and defensively he was at the top of his game with his receiving and game-calling.
Monsalve is really working on refining his intangibles behind the plate, and his work with some much more experienced pitchers in the AFL (and catchers) helped him pick up some things with regard to game calling, getting a better feel for the flow of the game, communicating better with his pitching staff, and being more in tune to the strengths and weaknesses of his pitchers. At the plate, he has a lot of power potential, but has yet to unleash it because of his inconsistency with his swing and approach, so it is something he will continue to work on going into next season.
Monsalve will turn 21-years next April and is expected to open the season at Double-A Akron, though could open at High-A Carolina because he only played 34 games there this past season. His progress and development has been slow, but he still has tons of upside and potential to be a top catching prospect in the game because of his size and abilities behind the plate, but also his very impressive strength which may start to show at the plate with more power numbers in the coming seasons.
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.