Draft : : Blog
Saturday, March 21, 2009

LHP David Holmberg vs. C Mike Ohlman

Anup Sinha        

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL- To cap off the Friday night high school “doubleheader”, I headed south from Sarasota to Port Charlotte High School to watch another great pitcher-hitter matchup.  From Michael Heller-Bobby Borchering, I went to David Holmberg-Mike Ohlman along with 40-50 other scouts.

David Holmberg is a jumbo-sized lefty from Port Charlotte High School who has signed with the University of Florida.  This is my first look at him and I would grade his pitchability at the top of the high school class.   His raw stuff isn’t at that first-round level, but his maturity, command, and poise most definitely are.

I can see Holmberg getting early-round consideration, perhaps sandwich or second.  At 6-3, 230, Holmberg has a pear shape with thick hips and legs.  His shoulders are broad but sloped.  He’s very strong in his leg and core muscles, which are truly the drivers when it comes to pitching.  That combined with easy over-the-top arm-action leads me to believe Holmberg will be able to pitch a lot of innings.  Holmberg has a high-kick, well-balanced delivery that he repeats well.

He’s mostly a two-pitch pitcher, fastball and curve.  Holmberg threw in the 87-89 MPH range for most of his seven innings of work in a 1-0 victory over Mike Ohlman’s Lakewood Ranch Mustangs.  I don’t see the velocity improving much by age 23, but he should be able to maintain it over the long pro season every five days.  What makes his fastball really work is its late boring action and his command.  He struck out twelve and walked only one.  Holmberg yielded only two hits (both to Ohlman).  His boring fastball proved difficult to square.

Big league pitchers have to not only have command within the strike zone but also out of it.  The ability to get hitters to chase balls that aren’t strikes is a gift and Holmberg showed that as well as a high school pitcher can.  I graded out his present-day fastball command as average and project it to plus. 

Holmberg’s curveball is a two-plane breaker at 70-73 MPH.  I graded it out as 45/55, believing it will become a solid-average major league pitch with solid-average command by age 23. 

Holmberg might be the type of pitcher who gets to the big leagues before age 23, however.  He doesn’t have the upside of the premium power pitchers in the draft, but his polish and maturity make him a safer proposition.

Mike Ohlman is one of the nation’s top catchers and a unique one at that.  He’s a long, lean 6-4, 180, whose body looks more appropriate out in the field or perhaps on a basketball player than on a catcher.  Ohlman has long limbs, a small waist, and a slender lower-half.

I can not name a big league catcher with his body-type and proportions.  Even the tall and slender ones tend to have big hips (ie. Sandy Alomar Jr).  This naturally raises concern about whether he will be able to handle the grind of crouching as the years go by.

What is undeniable is his throwing arm and his ability to neutralize the running game.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that Jacksonville Eagle’s View Academy’s Austin Maddox has the best pure arm-strength of any prep catcher I’ve ever seen.  Ohlman’s is right behind him in this draft class but he has even better feet and, surprisingly for a long-limber, a shorter release.

Though there were no steal attempts (for obvious reasons), Ohlman’s between-inning pop-times were regularly in the 1.8s.  I’ve timed him in that area during games as well in the past.  On a first base pickoff attempt on Friday, Ohlman registered a 1.51.  I believe that his arm is a more usable tool than Maddox’s and that his pop-times will be even better.  I don’t believe it’s a stretch to give him a future 70 grade as a thrower.

As a receiver, I could sense that Ohlman wasn’t as comfortable in his crouch as the “little squatty guys” by the way he hopped around between pitches.  An old scout once taught me to look for that, believing that in the long run those types may wear down faster.  With Ohlman’s body type, it’s more important an observation. 

His hands aren’t particularly soft, but they are quick and he adjusts his feet very well to block balls.  So I believe that if he holds up, he’s a solid-average MLB receiver.  He showed a take-charge mentality.

Ohlman has a different kind of swing, too.  His bat isn’t in the zone very long and he’s one of those guys who doesn’t impress me in batting practice, then I watch him in the game and he’s hitting the ball all over.  Ohlman generates 40 bat-speed which projects to solid-average and 45/55 raw power.  He stands square and starts his swing with a good bat-angle.  Ohlman went 2-3 with a triple and a single.  Holmberg made a couple mistakes hanging a mid-80s fastball in Ohlman’s eyes which he didn’t miss.

Ohlman did look leery on the curve on Friday.  He was leaning too much and not keeping his hands back.  In the past, I’ve seen him okay.

Usually, I look at a swing like his and don’t think he’ll hit for average with wood.  He will have some holes, but a good approach and hand-eye coordination will close some of them up. 

He’s a plus athlete in my book.  Ohlman is a solid-average runner despite the frame and position, and he displayed a graceful stride while legging out his triple.

I can see there being a lot of debate on Ohlman in the draft room because there are so many things unique about him, from his plus-plus throwing to his un-catcher-like frame to his down-and-up swing.  I can’t honestly say there’s a big league catcher he reminds me of in stature or style, but I’m quick to point out that there are moldbreakers ever year.  I disagree with scouts who use that “no big league comparison” as proof that he won’t play in the big leagues.  Otherwise everyone would still like look Ty Cobb and Walter Johnson.  The baseball scouting world had never seen a 6-10 lefty before Randy Johnson or a 5-6 uppercutting second baseman before Dustin Pedroia.  If Ohlman hits, plays defense, and stays healthy, he’ll do just fine.

So where does he go in the draft?  Signability will of course play a factor and his level of commitment to Miami.  But it would not surprise me if he’s gone in the second or third rounds next June. 

His athleticism also gives him the potential to play other positions.  I can easily see him in the outfield, maybe also third and first base.  However, his ability to neutralize a running game and lead a team from behind the plate are precious and I imagine he’ll play there until he proves otherwise. 


Check back as we shift back to college action blogs later this weekend.  I will be at Florida State on Saturday to watch the Seminoles take on Clemson University.  Freshman-eligible lefty sensation Chris Dwyer will pitch for the Tigers and I should also get another look at toolsy FSU outfielder D’Vontray Richardson.  On Sunday, I’ll be in The Swamp to see the University of Florida host Tennessee.  UT lefty Bryan Morgado is scheduled to pitch and potential 1st-rounder Kentrail Davis will play center field against outfielders Matt Den Dekker and Riley Cooper of the Florida Gator

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