photo: Ryan Holgate (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
Opening the Top 20 in The Cardinal Nation’s Top 50 prospect countdown for 2022 is a major college-trained, left-handed hitting outfielder taken 70th overall in the 2021 draft.
Age: 21 years old
Height/Weight – 6’2/193
Acquired: Selected in the Competitive Round B of the 2021 First-Year Player Draft, 70th overall.
Primary team in 2021: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Finished 2021: Palm Beach Cardinals (Low-A)
Prior Top 50 rankings – not applicable
Click on the above photo to be taken to Holgate’s player page at The Cardinal Nation, with additional biography and history information.
Jake Tweedie’s scouting report
(current grade/future grade)
Holgate is very different from most outfielders currently on this top prospect list. He is more of a hitter than a fielder and does so with plenty of pop from his bat. Although he did not initially showcase this after signing in 2021, his potential was evident in college as he hit 19 home runs and 101 RBI in his three seasons there.
Usually hitting for solid average (.314 in college), Holgate struggled in his first season in professional ball, with an average of just .193. There is certainly a high ceiling on his power potential, maybe more so than his contact potential, but Holgate should experience an improvement in his end product once he settles in for another full season of pro ball.
Holgate keeps his stance fairly low, with bent knees, but he generates a ton of power through his front foot lift and the way his arms swing the bat through the pitch. There may be some doubt in his approach due to his high strikeout rate last season (35.7%), but he was much more controlled at the plate in college, and his plate discipline should show more in 2022.
Defensively, Holgate is athletic and moves well in the outfield, but his arm is a little fringy for center field, so a corner outfield role may be more suited for him.
Future Value: 40+
His first career home run is an absolute 🌙 shot to center field!
🎇1⃣0⃣2⃣.9⃣ MPH Exit Velocity
📐2⃣9⃣ degree launch angle pic.twitter.com/qe9lN3HZdi
— Palm Beach Cardinals (@GoPBCardinals) August 1, 2021
Brian Walton’s environmental impact report
As a 21-year-old, Holgate had a highly productive 2021 spring for the University of Arizona after struggling to hit for average as a freshman. However, Holgate did show promise early, leading the Northwoods League with 13 home runs and walking 34 times in 222 at-bats in the summer of 2019.
Due to the shortened 2020 COVID season, Holgate played in just 15 games for the Wildcats but showed massive improvement. The progress continued in 2021 as he slashed .351/.421/.576/.997 with 11 home runs.
As a junior, Holgate had a high strikeout rate for a collegian, at nearly 19%. Even so, it did not hinder his ability to hit for average. Additionally, of his 86 hits, 32 went for extra bases.
In his final season at Arizona, Holgate played all 55 games in right field, but some scouts believe he profiles better as a left fielder in the professional ranks. When I asked him about his preferred position, he shared what he knows best, while also expressing his versatility.
“Right field is normally where I play – but I can play anywhere in the outfield and I can play first base,” he said.
A general lack of defensive standout tools and below-average foot speed will put more pressure on Holgate’s bat, which will need to be his carrying tool.
Hustle and 100% effort should never be a concern, however.
“I characterize my game as being as competitive as possible, be hard-nosed and do everything I can do win,” Holgate said.
2021 recap – professional
Considered a safer pick, Holgate was taken with the Cardinals’ next selection after high-risk, high-reward high school outfielder Joshua Baez 16 spots prior, at 54th overall. Cardinals director of scouting Randy Flores called Holgate “aggressive” with “zero fear” and lauds his ability to make contact.
With the pool amount for his pick at $906,800, Holgate settled with the Cardinals on July 20 for about $30,000 less, coming to terms at $875,000.
He immediately reported to the Cardinals complex in Jupiter and soon joined Low-A Palm Beach, making his professional debut on August 1. For the struggling Beach Birds club that had lost many of its top hitters to promotion, Holgate was most often placed into the number three spot in manager Jose Leon’s batting order.
As captured in the above video, Holgate blasted a solo home run and singled in his debut and scored twice. The left-handed hitter commented on the benefit in collecting his first important hit early on.
“It was big, especially after taking a little break after the season, and coming off the long season, it was good to come back and feel the barrel again,” he said.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing from there, however. The five total bases in Holgate’s first game turned out to be the high-water mark in his 30-game initial season (tied on September 10).
Though the plate appearances were relatively small, Holgate especially struggled against left-handed pitching, with a slash line of .130/.231/.130/.361. Overall, he came in at .193/.279/.289/.568.
I spoke with Holgate early – about two weeks into his seven-week debut professional season – asking him to identify his 2021 focus.
“In this short time, I am pretty much trying to put the results aside and focus on taking the next steps with my game and do everything I can to improve my ability as a baseball player and do what I can to move up to the next level,” Holgate said.
Speaking of that next level, Holgate did not earn the High-A promotion during his brief 2021 debut, but that is not a negative in any way. He received just 129 plate appearances to open his professional career, so if he returned to Palm Beach to start 2022, it would not be the end of the world.
Then again, it would not be out of the ordinary for the Cardinals to challenge Holgate out of the gates with a promotion to Peoria. Either way, I expect he will log the majority of his 2022 at-bats in the High-A Central League. It will be important to see if he can iron out some of the roughness from his debut.
Holgate stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 205 pounds. His size, left-handedness and general profile are similar to that of another collegiate outfielder, Alec Burleson, whom the Cardinals took one year earlier with the exact same 70th overall pick in the draft.
If he can manage his strikeouts, Holgate is another college-trained candidate to rise quickly through the Cardinals organization. But despite the inevitable comparisons, it is not reasonable to expect Holgate to reach Triple-A in his first full season as did Burleson – though late 2023 seems a reasonable stretch.
Holgate generates plenty of power, as evidenced by the monster home run he hit against Kumar Rocker in the College World Series. He can put his bat on most offerings but will need to cut down on his swing-and-miss against breaking pitches to become a big leaguer.
However, like other corner outfielders (including Burleson), the rate at which Holgate’s power emerges may be his biggest professional differentiator – whether starter or reserve at the big-league level.
Reaching St. Louis before his Rule 5 eligibility in December 2024 is a possibility, but mastering the three increasingly difficult levels between is the more pressing and immediate challenge.
MLB debut: 2024
Rule 5 Eligible: 2024
Our 2022 Top 50 series continues
To see the entire list of top Cardinals prospects, grading scales and remaining article schedule, click here. This includes the Top 50 countdown and 12 in-depth, follow-up articles planned daily into early 2022.
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