Name: Derek Holland
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: October 9, 1986
Baseball's new Collective Bargaining Agreement eliminated the draft-and-follow process beginning with the 2008 MLB Draft, but teams were still able to sign their 2007 candidates. The Rangers were lucky enough to come away with a couple of strong prospects in their final draft-and-follow class.
The most promising of the bunch is left-handed pitcher Derek Holland. The Rangers originally drafted Holland – a product of Wallace State Community College in Alabama – in the 25th round of the 2006 MLB Draft.
The club then took advantage of the draft-and-follow process by evaluating Holland through his sophomore season. The southpaw was offered a contract after he posted a 1.82 ERA in 74.1 innings with the college.
"[The Rangers] stayed in touch with me, but they told me not to think about what they were doing," said Holland of the process. "They told me to go out and be myself and to do the things I've been doing the whole time. They didn't really interfere. They just kept in touch to make sure I was doing okay and staying healthy."
Shortly after signing, Holland was assigned to the short-season Spokane Indians, where he excelled. The native of Ohio had a 3.22 ERA in 16 games, including 14 starts. Even more impressive were his peripheral numbers, as Holland surrendered just 57 hits in 67 innings. He recorded 83 strikeouts, good enough for second in the Northwest League.
The 6-foot-2 hurler is quick to credit his Spokane coaching staff for his success last summer.
"They changed a little bit of my delivery, like how my windup is," he said. "It got me in a better direction than I was."
Another adjustment made by the Rangers coaching staff has helped Holland's slider develop into a strong pitch.
"They changed my arm slot," said Holland when asked about his slider. "When I threw my slider before, the best example I can think of is that it looked like throwing a discus. My arm was straight across, straight out. Now it's more of a three-quarter delivery. My arm slot is the same as my fastball, so it looks more like my fastball."
Upon the conclusion of the 2007 regular season, Holland was invited to join the Rangers' Fall Instructional League club at the team's minor league complex in Surprise, Ariz. The 21-year-old, who made seven appearances during the month-long league, was pleased with his development.
"I felt really good about my performance," replied Holland. "I'm kind of big on my walks – I wish I wouldn't have given up any of them actually. But I was still satisfied with my numbers. Everything was good. I got a lot of different things changed and a lot of better results. I'm very impressed with everything."
As the 2008 season nears, talk about opening day minor league rosters begins to heat up. Though many players are unsure as to where they will be assigned, Holland expects to begin the season in Single-A ball.
"Honestly I'm thinking I will be starting in Clinton," he said. "I hope that's where I'll be, but I don't really know. It's all kind of a last minute thing."
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Holland has been with the Rangers organization for a short amount of time, but he has already seen his repertoire improve. The southpaw's fastball sits anywhere between 89-93 MPH, occasionally topping out at 94. Holland's slider – which is 79-81 MPH – improved after Rangers coaches adjusted his arm slot to match that of his other two pitches. Holland says his coaches also told him that his old slider arm slot looked "painful". He also throws a changeup, which is a work-in-progress, but figures to develop into an average offering.
Projection: Holland's ceiling depends on how well his slider and changeup develop. At present time, the Ohio native looks to be a back-of-the-rotation starter, but if his slider and changeup make enough strides, he could be a number three in time.
2008 Outlook: Because he is relatively advanced – even as a 21-year-old junior college product – the Rangers have a couple of sensible options for 2008. Holland mastered the short-season Northwest League and he could possibly be ready to begin next season with High-A Bakersfield. However, the safe bet is that he will start the season at Single-A Clinton. If Holland has success with the L-Kings, splitting the season between Low- and High-A would not be out of the realm of possibility.