JOHN HOLDZKOM, RIGHT HANDED PITCHER
|Born: October 19, 1987
Drafted: 4th round, 124th overall, 2006 (Mets)
How Acquired: Contract purchased (from independent league team)
College: Salt Lake (UT) CC
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|Holdzkom is a towering right-hander whose fastball has reached 100 mph and sits in the mid-90s. The pitch is actually a cutter and has a lot of movement, prompting Russell Martin to say that Holdzkom is a challenge to catch. Holdzkom throws the fastball a very high percentage of the time. His second pitch is a palmball; after the Pirates called him up, various sources stated that he might be the only pitcher throwing it. He’s always had major control issues and hardly pitched at all from 2009-12 due to injury problems. His draft prospect status took a hit his senior year in high school as he didn’t pitch very much. That resulted partly from a period of academic ineligibility and partly from a dispute with his coach. Holdzkom didn’t sign with Seattle after the draft and instead went to junior college, but dropped out after an argument with that coach. He signed immediately after being drafted that time. Holdzkom’s older brother, Lincoln — who died tragically in a car crash in December 2015 — pitched for Altoona in 2009.
Pitching mostly in relief, Holdzkom struggled to throw strikes in his debut.
Holdzkom battled arm problems and was able to pitch only briefly at two rookie levels.
The Mets sent Holdzkom at the start of the season to low A, where he pitched in relief. He struggled there and the team sent him to advanced rookie ball once play started there. He pitched well as a starter and returned to low A in August. The arm problems returned, though, and Holdzkom had Tommy John surgery after the season.
Holdzkom missed the entire season following elbow surgery.
Holdzkom was able to pitch only briefly in June and July.
The Mets released Holdzkom during spring training and he didn’t pitch all year.
The Reds signed Holdzkom over the winter, but he pitched only briefly for them in high A before they released him.
Holdzkom spent the season pitching in relief for two different independent league teams. He missed a lot of bats, but also walked a lot of batters.
Holdzkom again pitched for two different indy ball teams, this time only briefly before the Pirates acquired him for cash. They sent him to Altoona, where he quickly showed improved control. Some reports attributed the improvement to him simply changing the grip on his fastball, but Holdzkom has denied that. After just a few outings with the Curve, he pitched very well in Indianapolis, leading the Pirates to add him to the 40-man roster on September 1. He continued to impress in the majors, striking out nearly half the batters he faced and averaging over 95 mph with his fastball. The Pirates needed little time to start using him in higher-leverage roles and kept him active for the wild card game over John Axford.
The season didn’t go as planned for Holdzkom. He pitched well in spring training, but the Pirates kept Rob Scahill, who has a far lower ceiling, rather than Holdzkom. The ostensible reason was that Scahill was better suited to long relief, but they were already carrying Vance Worley to fill that role. It’s possible they weren’t convinced that Holdzkom’s control issues were sufficiently behind him. He seemed a near-lock to appear in the majors later, but he didn’t. Instead, he struggled to throw strikes in AAA. In early May, he went on the disabled list with shoulder fatigue. He returned after a month, then went back on the DL in late June. He returned again in late July after rehabbing at Morgantown, but went out again after one game in AAA. Throughout this time, he remained hard to hit, piling up strikeouts and holding batters to a .188 average.
Holdzkom was able to pitch semi-effectively in AAA despite the control issues, so he’s not far from being able to help the Pirates if he can get healthy. Unfortunately, his velocity was down to 89-91 in spring training, leading to concern that his shoulder still isn’t well. The Pirates optioned him to the minors early in the spring.
UPDATE: The Pirates designated Holdzkom for assignment to clear roster space for several additions at the end of spring training. Given his persistent health problems, there’s a good chance he’ll clear waivers. If they retain him, the Pirates will probably continue to try to get him back to where he was in 2014.
|2016: Major league minimum|
|Signing Bonus: $210,000
MiLB Debut: 2006
MLB Debut: 9/2/2014
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2020
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 9/1/2014 (since removed)
Options Remaining: 2 (USED: 2015)
MLB Service Time: 0.028
|June 8, 2005: Drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 15th round, 443rd overall pick.
June 7, 2006: Drafted by the New York Mets in the 4th round, 124th overall pick; signed on June 7.
March 24, 2011: Released by the New York Mets.
January 5, 2012: Signed as a minor league free agent by the Cincinnati Reds.
June 21, 2012: Released by the Cincinnati Reds.
June 21, 2014: Contract purchased from independent league team by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
September 1, 2014: Contract purchased by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
April 3, 2016: Designated for assignment by the Pittsburgh Pirates.