PHOENIX — David Holmberg is not flashy, just effective.
The young left-hander shies away from attention while his numbers demand it. It is his way.
Holmberg may be less in the public eye than some of the Diamondbacks’ other top pitching prospects, but he is certainly on the D-backs’ radar as a future major league starter. A just-turned-21-year-old, Holmberg’s future is bright.
“He’ll be a big league starter at some point. He just has to keep logging innings” like every young pitcher on the way up, D-backs director of player development Mike Bell said this week.
“The way he looks now and the way the approaches the game, the way he does his work, I don’t see how it couldn’t happen.”
Holmberg’s fastball usually sits in the 89-93 mph range, which is plenty of velocity when combined with his other three pitches: a slider, a curveball and a changeup. He has shown an ability to throw all four for strikes and has done so regularly since the D-backs acquired him as the prospect-in-waiting — along with Daniel Hudson — from the White Sox for Edwin Jackson at the nonwaiver trade deadline in 2010.
Holmberg has averaged almost nine strikeouts and only 2 1/2 walks per game in his four minor league seasons, a ratio that indicates an understanding of what it takes to win. Talent evaluators have compared his stuff to pitchers such as Mark Buehrle and Joe Saunders.
“He’s extremely consistent. You know what you are going to get from him. He’s a strike thrower. He commands all four pitches,” Bell said.
The combination is almost “shocking” from a pitcher at such a young age, Bell said.
“He is a really mature kid. His is pleasant to be around. A nice, nice person,” Bell continued.
“His personality is such that attention is so unimportant to him. It doesn’t interest him. Don’t be fooled. He competes as well as anybody we have.”
Holmberg began the season at Class A Visalia, where he was completely in command — and command is the right word. Not only was Holmberg 6-3 with a 2.99 ERA in 12 starts, but he struck out 86 and walked only 14 in 78 1/3 innings. Bell, who sees all the D-backs’ minor league affiliates several times a season, remembers one early outing.
“He was using the fastball on both sides of the plate, and he had his changeup that night. When he was ahead in the count, he would spike (a breaking ball) and get guys to chase. He just had a tremendous feel for it,” Bell said.
Holmberg also is not afraid to challenge hitters inside, dropping off-speed pitches under the hands of right-handed batters.
“Steady Eddie, man,” Bell said. “We got him at 18 (years old), and he was like that then.”
Holmberg was promoted to Class AA Mobile in mid-June and he has gone through a little bit of an adjustment period, if you want to call it that. He is 2-3 with a 4.09 ERA in eight starts for the BayBears but seems to be settling in, having given up just nine earned runs in his last 26 2/3 innings, an ERA of 3.04.
The D-backs wanted to give Holmberg more time in the California League, but he basically forced a move to Mobile, a promotion that helped fill a rotation that had lost prospects Trevor Bauer, Patrick Corbin, Charles Brewer and Tyler Skaggs to the next level.
Corbin made his major league debut straight from Mobile, and Bauer came to the D-backs after a short stint at Triple-A Reno, where he was returned last week. Skaggs has made two appearances in the Futures Game and is also in Reno. Holmberg appears to be right in that mix.
Along with his refining his pitching, Holmberg has matured physically along the way, reshaping his frame. A big man at 6-foot-3 and 223 pounds, the changes he’s made are not hard to notice.
“He’s a very hard worker,” Bell said. “He’s getting bigger, thicker in his back, his shoulders and his legs. He’s putting the weight in the right spots.”