Holt headlines class of '14 surprise breakouts
Red Sox utility man is one of many big leaguers stepping out from shadows this year
The improbable story of Brock Holt added another chapter on Tuesday when the utility man made an incredible catch in center field to help preserve a 2-1 Red Sox victory over the Twins. Holt, who came into the season with just 144 career plate appearances, has burst onto the scene by hitting .333/.375/.476 for Boston this year in 162 plate appearances.
Holt hasn't been the only player to come out of the blue and produce this season. Here are a few other players around the league who have made surprise surges in 2014.
• Yangervis Solarte had never seen Major League action before this season, but he has adjusted remarkably quick. Solarte, the Yankees' starting third baseman, has the second highest on-base plus slugging percentage on the team, trailing only first baseman Mark Teixeira. In 62 games this season, Solarte has batted .274 and slugged .420 and has been a consistent presence at the hot corner for the Bronx Bombers.
• Dee Gordon has been a part-time producer in Los Angeles since 2011, but the Dodgers' infielder has had a breakout year on the basis of his 36 steals. He has already surpassed his career high of 32, set in 2012, and his speed alone should put him into consideration for an All-Star nod. Gordon has also flashed some power with seven home runs and has been a steady contributor with his .285 batting average.
• Grant Green, although he was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake on June 7, was a huge addition to the Angels' lineup during his month-long callup beginning at the start of May. Green logged a .359 batting average and .842 OPS in 64 plate appearances for the Angels, who have surged into second place in the American League West.
• Charlie Blackmon, in his first year as an everyday starter in Colorado's outfield, had an incredibly hot start to the season, batting over .400 through his first 23 games of the season. He has cooled off somewhat since then, but his .847 OPS and 12 home runs are second only to Troy Tulowitzki on the Rockies.
• Alfredo Simon has been a pleasant surprised for a battered Cincinnati team. The righty was inserted into the Reds' rotation after Mat Latos' return from offseason surgery was delayed, and although Latos has returned, Simon beat out Tony Cingrani for a permanent spot as a starter. The 33-year-old has amassed a 9-3 record and 2.95 ERA over 13 starts. It's a marked improvement over his only other year seeing extended action as a starter (2011 in Baltimore), when Simon owned a 4.90 ERA.
• Garrett Richards had an ERA above 4.00 in each of the first three years of his career. In 2014, the Angels made him a full-time starter for the first time, and he has produced accordingly with a 2.87 ERA and 6-2 record in his 14 starts.
• Will Smith spent the 2013 season shuttling between Kansas City and Triple-A Omaha as a part-time MLB starter. Milwaukee traded for him in the offseason and moved him into the bullpen, and the lefty has responded well. Smith carries a 1.10 ERA in 36 relief appearances. He's struck out 41 batters in 32 2/3 innings.
• Jean Machi was a solid reliever for the Giants last season, but he's taken things to another level in 2014. He has a 0.29 ERA over 31 innings pitched in relief for first-place San Francisco.
• Dallas Keuchel had a 5.15 ERA as a part-time starter for Houston last year. In 2014, he's hit his stride, compiling an 8-3 record for the Astros while maintaining a .992 WHIP.
• Josh Harrison has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates, who have struggled in the early going after earning a National League Wild Card berth last season. Through 53 games, Harrison has batted .303, allowing the Bucs to delay promoting hot prospect Gregory Polanco.
Caitlin Swieca is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.