KANSAS CITY, MO - JUNE 6: Reliever Greg Holland #56 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays at Kauffman Stadium on June 5, 2011 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by G. Newman Lowrance/Getty Images)
There's nothing in Holland's past to signify an ability to start, but perhaps the Royals are going to experiment anyway.
With some of the biggest slugging prospects in the last few years in the minor leagues now residing in Kansas City, there's a lot for Royals fans to be excited about -- particularly on the offensive side of the ball. But when you look at the starting pitching performances overall this season, that same word -- offensive -- could be used to describe that as well. Whether it's been disappointing rookie performances or inconsistent veterans, the Royals yield no exciting options in the rotation.
So it was interesting to read a column by Baseball Prospectus' John Perrotto today when he drops a quick one-liner in his On The Beat column by saying, "While hard-throwing rookie Greg Holland has pitched well out of the bullpen, the Royals still feel he could be an effective starter in the long term." My first thought in that moment: Really? The same Greg Holland who started a handful of games in four-plus minor league seasons? That experiment only lasted 7 total games back in 2008 for High-A Wilmington. That's it.
Perhaps most of you could even care less about that question, but if you're a Royals fan, you're looking for any signs of life when it comes to the pitching staff. Why would Perrotto maintain that Holland could be a successful starter over the long-term, especially when he's been a solid part of the KC bullpen this year. He's pitched just over 15 innings and allowed 9 hits and 5 walks while striking out 20. Besides the headlining homer he gave up to the St. Louis Cardinals' Matt Holliday recently, Holland's been one of the rare gems on the KC staff.
That's exactly what they could have expected given his totals in the minors. Holland finished over half the games he appeared in during his minor league career and always kept the ball in the yard (0.5 HR/9) and posted solid strikeout totals (9.7 K/9). He's maintained even better ratios in the majors with a current 11.7 K/9 while actually lowering his walk totals. In other words, he's been even better out of the pen in the majors. All this to say: why mess with a good thing?
Even at Western Carolina, Holland was setting school marks for saves and was impressive enough out of the pen there for the Royals to pay him a $50K bonus to leave school early as a 10th round selection in 2007. Every ounce of success thus far for Holland, in other words, has been throwing hard out of the bullpen at every level of play. It's difficult to imagine turning that into a starter all of a sudden when that very experiment was apparently abandoned in the minors during Dayton Moore's oversight. He's known Holland since Day One, so why conduct the change now? Is KC really that desperate to try something?
The conversion of Holland would be interesting, and we have to assume Perrotto has inside information that the Royals are going to try some things heading into the second half of the season. But here's hoping that messing with Holland at this rate doesn't change a thing, and, in fact, works out in the end. It's happened before a la Justin Duscherer, so perhaps the Royals see that the stamina could be there in the end. Certainly the talent is.