10/22/2003 5:15 PM ET
Holliday beats the heat in AFL
Outfielder is taking the carefree approach
By Thomas Harding / MLB.com
Beyond getting through triple-figure-degree days in the desert, Colorado Rockies outfield prospect Matt Holliday doesn't give himself much to think about these days.
The carefree approach has done wonders for his batting average early in Arizona Fall League play. Holliday, a Colorado seventh-round pick in 1998, batted .333 with two home runs and 11 RBIs through his first 15 games with the Mesa Solar Sox. His six stolen bases -- in as many attempts -- tied him for the league lead, and he's had a blast playing left field and center field.
Why spoil all that fun and success by bogging down the mind? Holliday can't think of a reason.
"In the Fall League, the pitchers don't know me, and we may see a team only one or two times, so I try to get into a hitter's count, get a good pitch to hit, and hit a line drive," Holliday said before Mesa's game against the Scottsdale Scorpions on Wednesday afternoon. "I'm not thinking about so much.
"Before, I was thinking about where my hands were or my stance or things like that. Now, I'm going with the approach that the simpler I take it, the better it is for me. I don't know about other guys, but it works for me."
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Holliday, who turns 24 in January, played at Double-A Tulsa. Although he finished with a .253 batting average, lowest of his career, he had a strong second half and ended the year with 12 homers and a career-best 72 RBIs.
Holliday has endured a position change, from third base to the outfield, and "Tommy John" ligament transfer surgery in July 2001. A 6-4, 235-pounder with natural power, good speed and senses on the bases, Holliday might be showing signs of putting together his physical tools and making an impact on the Rockies' outfield future.
Beyond Quinton McCracken in the early days of the franchise and current Florida Marlins center fielder Juan Pierre in recent seasons, Colorado has produced little in the outfield and Holliday is part of a current group trying to change that.
Rene Reyes had his moments during a late-season trial. He didn't look ready to step into the starting lineup immediately, but could stick in 2004. Luke Allen, acquired from Los Angeles last winter, showed defensive promise but stagnated offensively at Triple-A. Choo Freeman demonstrated physical tools but was inconsistent in his first Triple-A season.
Holliday has yet to play in a Triple-A game, but he offers as much potential for home runs and steals as anyone ahead of him.
"All the potential and ability you look for is there, and we're starting to see it come out now," Rockies player development director Bill Geivett said. "He's always used the field pretty well. I really look for him to progress nicely in this league, and he's off to a very good start."
Geivett said Holliday's batting average didn't reflect how hard he hit the ball this season.
"He's always used the whole field -- between him and [third base prospect Garrett] Atkins, I don't know of many guys that move the ball around like they do," Geivett said. "And his manager in Tulsa, Marv Foley, said this is the most bad-luck hitter he's seen. He hit some line drives, and it was unbelievable that they seemed to be right at people."
The contact Holliday made in Tulsa was encouraging for the Rockies. He dropped his strikeout total from 102 in 130 games at Double-A Carolina in 2002 to 74 in 135 games this past season.
In the past, the Rockies watched Holliday put on marvelous batting practice shows but not always transfer that into games. Now, Holliday's batting practice is geared toward hitting the ball where it's pitched and making contact. The hope is that if he is seeing pitches well and hitting them hard, the power will show naturally.
Holliday hopes to continue his low-stress, high-success approach for the rest of the Arizona season, then finish 2003 on an even higher note. His wife, Leslie, is due with the couple's first child, a son they'll name Jackson Matthew Holliday, in December.
He'll also spend some time with his father, Tom Holliday, the pitching coach at the University of Texas, although they won't talk much about his hitting. "I don't get to see him as much as I'd like -- as little as I get to see him, I don't want to spend the time discussing my swing or anything like that," Holliday said.
Holliday also said he won't waste time figuring where he fits in the Rockies' outfield mix.
"I've been playing this game for a long time now and I've learned that when you worry about what other people are thinking or what's going on, you're worrying about the wrong things," Holliday said. "If I can take care of myself, get better and work hard, hopefully those things will be in my favor."
Not obsessing over baseball matters has worked pretty well for him to this point.