Why Did the Marlins Protect 2014 20th-Round Pick, Low-A RHP Holloway?

In preparing for the Rule 5 Draft, the Miami Marlins set their 40-man roster, along with the 29 other Major League clubs, to determine what prospects will be available to the other teams for the draft. For the most part, the process was very traditional, the rosters set three weeks before the draft. Teams purchased the contracts of a couple Triple-A and Double-A players who show growing promise. Everything went as expected except for one addition: Jordan Holloway’s contract was purchased by the Marlins to add him to the 40-man roster.

Jordan Holloway? Who? Jordan Holloway is a Starting Pitcher taken by the Marlins in the 20th Round of the 2014 Draft. He has never been promoted beyond the Marlins former Class A affiliate, the Greensboro Grasshoppers. In 2018, Holloway pitched a total of seven and two-thirds innings between the Florida Gulf Coast League and the short-season New York – Penn League. Why would the new front office regime in Miami feel the need to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft?

In 2014 and 2015, Holloway showed dominant numbers across the GCL and NYP League, accumulating to a promotion and two starts in Greensboro. Through fourteen starts in Batavia in 2015, Holloway posted a 2.91 ERA with a 26-40 BB-K ratio, and a 1.412 WHIP over 68 IP. However, the promise started to wane as 2016 and 2017 saw Holloway post a 5.69 ERA and a 1.459 WHIP over 98 IP in 19 starts in Greensboro and five more in Batavia. This performance was followed by Tommy John surgery at the end of 2017. Holloway’s chances at making the Majors seemed lower everyday. Tommy John surgery left coaches and executives uncertain of his future.

In June of 2018, Holloway was ready to return to action, but his debut was cut short after four batters in the Gulf Coast League. In those four batters, he surrendered two hits, two stolen bases, and an unearned run. He managed to piece together a strikeout in that time, but it was not time for him to be back in a game.

After another two month layoff, on August 17th, he began another rehab stint in the Gulf Coast League. In two appearances, he faced ten batters, allowing two hits, an unearned run, no walks, and mowing down 4 batters. On August 24th, he was called up to finish the season in Batavia, NY with the Muckdogs.

In two games that I witnessed from the stands, Holloway faced 15 batters to perfect results. 15 up, 15 down, and four strikeouts. It took all of 45 pitches to retire all 15 batters, and threw 37 of those for strikes. He left those games with an 8.9% swinging strike rate, slightly below major league average, and game scores of 57 and 62, respectively.

Jeremy Owens, one of the Muckdogs coaches this past year, had a lot of praise for Holloway, “His fastball comes in at 95-98 mph with a hammer of a curve.” Owens also acknowledged that a clock is on Holloway to fulfill his potential, mentioning that “This year will be critical to his development.”

In 2019, the Marlins are hoping to progress Holloway’s growth through the minors without pushing him into injury or breaking his confidence. Likely goals for the season are to get him a firm grasp in the rotation for Double-A affiliate Jacksonville, however, it is likely he will begin the season in Low-A Clinton with the Eastern Iowa-based Lumberkings. A best-case scenario for Holloway would be one or two relief appearances in Triple-A New Orleans, but I would argue that is highly unlikely. The most-likely tale of the season is that Holloway makes about ten starts in Clinton, ten more in High-A Jupiter, and a couple end-of-season starts for Jacksonville to measure his progression.

Regardless of his current progress in recovery from a Tommy John, the Marlins are optimistic on Holloway’s potential. They’re putting their faith in his future in an effort to bring his game to the next level and climb through the minors this season. The organization saw Holloway’s raw talent in a 95-mph fastball and a gifted curveball, and didn’t want to risk another organization snagging him away in the Rule 5 draft for a bullpen arm. 

One thing seems certain about this move, the organization who drafted him, and has seen his highs and lows, still has large goals for Holloway to fulfill. In 2019, we will look for his progression through the minors and see how this vote of confidence will motivate him to succeed.

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Mick Callahan

Hi, I'm Mick Callahan. I'm a native of St. Louis, MO, and a lifelong Cardinals fan. Most of the time, I'm a software engineer, which has left me to be one of the resident Stat Nerds here at Diamond Digest. If you need an example, check out my aRBI+ article.

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