OGDEN — If you were to attempt to encapsulate in a single at-bat Ogden Raptors’ speedster Marcus Holland’s style of play, you couldn’t do much better than his first trip to the plate on Aug. 30 against Idaho Falls.
Leading off the game for the Raptors, Holland worked the count and walked, seeing most of Chukars starter Zeb Sneed’s repertoire in the process. He didn’t stay on first for long, however. He stole second, moved to third on a ground ball and came around to score on a sacrifice fly.
Using that combination of on-base skills and speed, Holland has become an offensive threat for the Raptors, though you wouldn’t know it by looking only at more traditional statistics.
“What I try to do is I try to get on base and work the count,” Holland said. “I don’t try to swing at the first pitch. I try to be the guy that gets on and scores runs for my team. I’m not going to be a power guy, and I worry about my on-base percentage more than my batting average.”
What’s unique about Holland is that he’s become an impact player despite having little power — he’s never hit a homer in pro ball — and a .244 batting average that ranks 10th on the team among players with at least 100 at-bats. While those numbers might have casual fans overlooking him, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been a difference-maker in the lineup.
Holland understands that homers and batting average aren’t be-all, end-all statistics, as they were once regarded, and he is more concerned with getting on base — even if it doesn’t happen with a hit.
Thanks to a Pioneer League-leading 54 walks, the 20-year-old is second on the Raptors and seventh in the league in on-base percentage (.421), giving him plenty of offensive value, if not gaudy numbers by traditional measures.
But getting on base is only part of Holland’s package. Once there, he wreaks havoc with his speed and is leading the league with 44 stolen bases, 19 more than his closest competitor.
“If I get on first, I’m trying to steal second as quickly as possible,” Holland said. “I don’t want the batter behind me to fall behind in the count. I’m just trying to make it easier for my teammates.”
Since signing in the 33rd round out of high school last year, Holland has worked hard to get his offensive game to this point. Last season in 25 games with the rookie-level Arizona League Dodgers, Holland hit just .159/.256/.174 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage).
“The swing’s gotten much better the second half of the season,” said Raptors manager Damon Berryhill. “He’s coming along well.”
A natural righty, he began switch hitting only a year ago and has made consistent progress since initially struggling with the transition.
“It’s challenging, but a key that helps me is that I’m not afraid to strike out,” Holland said of learning to switch hit. “I’m not afraid of failure. Last year was a lot harder. Now that I have some AB’s under my belt, it’s starting to come along.”
Holland is also improving defensively, where he has split time between second base and center field. It is just his second year playing second base, and he’s experienced growing pains at the position — 15 errors in 33 games — but that’s nothing unexpected for a player learning a new position.
In center, Holland is much more polished. He played center in high school, and his speed and ability to read balls off the bat make him one of the better defensive center fielders in the league.
“I’m kind of raw at it, but I want to stay on the dirt,” Holland said. “But, I mean, I feel like right now I can help my teammates a lot more out in center field. I can run down balls and use my speed a lot more.”
Still, Holland could end up providing more value at second, meaning he’ll continue to hone his skills at both positions.
“He’s got a knack for getting good jumps (in center),” Berryhill said. “It’s a more comfortable position for him. But he’s going to get time at both spots.”