Breaking down the draft: Bryan Price vs. Brad Holtby Alex Eisenberg
September 03, 2008
As I watched the video of Bryan Price, who was drafted 48th overall this season by the Boston Red Sox, his similarity to Mets draft pick Brad Holt struck me. Both were drafted in similar spots, both offer plus fastballs, and both have projectable, athletic builds.
In addition, each pitcher possesses some very similar mechanical attributes, which also makes it easier to identify some subtle, but critical differences.
I first completed a scouting report on Holt in the third installment of this series in which I broke down picks 27 - 35 and I liked what I saw.
Since then, Holt has been just filthy. Holt currently sports a 1.75 ERA and has the peripherals to back it up. He has 89 strikeouts in just 67 innings, striking out one third of batters faced for a K% of 33. When contact is made, it doesn't seem to be of the hard variety since Holt has a BABIP against of .262 and has given up just nine extra-base hits. The only thing iffy has been the control, but it hasn't hurt him because his power stuff has simply been too tough to hit.
Price, on the other hand, stacks up well with Holt. The K% of 24, while solid, isn't at Holt's level, but his groundball percentage of 58 makes up for some of that difference. In addition, Price's control has been much better than his college numbers indicate. Price's biggest problem has been hittability: a .350 BABIP against and nine extra base hits in less than half the innings.
Let's look at the mechanics of each pitcher at different points in the delivery. Below is the full length clips of each pitcher's wind-up:
Take note of the very beginning of the delivery--at the point in which the knee reaches its upper most point. When this point is reached, Price is in a little bit more of a compact position and has everything a tad closer to his core. You'll also notice Price's hips are turned a little more than Holt's, likely in an attempt to make it more difficult for hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand.
Now, as the leg drops, Holt doesn't extend it much—he remains tall. Holt finds himself in a position of being better able to control the stride length and momentum heading into foot plant. Price puts himself in a similar position, but because his hips start out a little more turned away from the batter, he isn't able to generate as much power from his stride compared to Holt.
Holt and Price do have a couple differences in how they break there hands. Holt maintains more of a straight arm after hand break, while Price maintains a little more bend. Price also breaks his hands just a tad later.
The above clips are about where the stride of each pitcher begins. Holt has Price beat here because he's able to enact a longer stride. Both employ what looks to be a small step-over move where it appears they are stepping over an imaginary object just before foot plant. The step-over move helps lengthen the pitcher's stride and build up extra momentum heading into foot plant. It's one way to add a couple mph to a pitcher's velocity.
I've explained scap loading before. It's the stretching of the various elastic muscles and tendons of the shoulder and one of the things it does is channel energy from the torso to the arm. Scap loading is what gives the arm a whip-like action and is a major factor in producing high velocities.
When a pitcher scap loads, it looks as if they are pinching the shoulder blades by trying to touch the elbow to the middle point of their back. Take note of what you see here:
Who would you say does a better job of loading the scapula? In my view, that would be Holt. The loading process is deeper: he's more efficient in using the muscles in the shoulder region and getting more use out of them.
The above clips begin one frame before the front foot lands. The biggest difference between the two pitchers is their front-side mechanics. Notice how Price firms up the glove to prevent his front shoulder from flying open and how he leaves the glove out in front of his body and lets the chest meet the glove. Price's front side mechanics usually will lend itself to good control.
Holt is different in that he pulls the glove into his body. However, he doesn't seem to have a problem with his shoulder flying open and that's because he doesn't pull the glove down by his side--he remains, for the most part, closed throughout his wind-up.
The Follow Through
The difference between a great finish and a decent finish:
Holt finishes in an athletic position with excellent extension. He's aggressive and throws with intent; yet he's under control and throwing straight through his target. He gives the arm a long distance to decelerate after release. There is a reason Holt's fastball is sneaky fast and appears to jump on hitters as it approaches home plate.
Price also lands in an athletic position, but isn't able to make as good a use of his legs as Holt. He's under control at release, but less intent. He achieves decent upper body tilt but he also falls off toward first base. He also gives the arm a reasonable distance to decelerate, but the differences in each pitcher's finish is apparent.
Holt is able to get his body out in front and achieve the upper body tilt and extension, with the help of his long stride, needed to release the ball just a little closer to home plate. Price doesn't get the same amount of extension out in front as Holt does and as a result his fastball doesn't have quite the same pop to it:
Of course, mechanics are only a fraction of what is looked for in terms of evaluating a pitcher. I like Holt's mechanics and fastball better, but I'm impressed with what Price has to offer.
The biggest red flag against Holt heading into last June's draft was the lack of a breaking ball and change-up. Holt has shown improvement in this area, but the breaking ball still profiles as below average. Price doesn't have this problem as his breaking ball profiles as above average to plus though there are consistency issues with this pitch. Based on what I've seen, I would project Price to have better control, but Price's college numbers give me some pause.
The bottom line: there is a lot to like about both these pitchers and Neither has disappointed in their performance thus far. Should they make the necessary improvements, I think you'll see a lot of front office types second-guessing themselves for passing these two over.
References and Resources
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Alex breaks down major and minor league players by using sabermetric and video analysis at his website, Baseball-Intellect. To get full access to his entire collection of prospect video and scouting reports, you can sign up as a Premium Member. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org