An eighth-round pick out of the University of Central Oklahoma, LHP Holden Capps has quietly been posting some very good performances for Class-A Lexington.
Coming off of a high school career that saw him make the All-District, All-Area, and All-State teams for Lawton High School in 2013, Capps began his collegiate career with Redlands Community College in El Reno, OK, before joining UNC-Charlotte. He then transferred to Central Oklahoma to pitch his senior year in 2017. Capps started for the Bronchos, and while he walked nearly one batter every two innings (39 in 90 1/3 IP), he also struck out 85 batters in going 8-4 over 15 appearances (6 innings/start). Base-runners were only 6 of 13 in steals against him.
Joining the Royals’ organization in 2017, Capps spent time with both the AZL Royals and the Idaho Falls Chukars in the Pioneer League. He pitched only 12 innings in the Arizona League over four appearances (two starts), striking out eleven and walking four. With the Chukars, Capps made nine starts (41 innings), striking out 34 and walking 15 while posting a 5.49 ERA for the season. Keep in mind, however, that the league’s average ERA was 5.65, so while he didn’t set the world on fire, he also dealt with his first run at an offense-heavy league fairly well.
Capps came to the Lexington Legends to begin the 2018 season, and his numbers have improved across the board. Over 22 appearances (four starts, 60 2/3 IP), he’s struck out 65 batters while walking only 10 (1.5 BB/9; 9.6 K/9; 6.5 K/BB ratio). Especially of note was his seven strikeouts over four innings vs. the Columbia Fireflies on July 1st (one hit allowed, zero walks); six Ks over 3 innings vs. the Greenville Drive on July 16th (one walk, two hits allowed, zero runs); and seven Ks vs. the Augusta GreenJackets over a 3 1/3-inning no-decision (two runs on five hits, one HR allowed, no walks) on April 12th. Ten of Capps’ appearances have been scoreless, a total of 29 2/3 innings (non-consecutive, but seemed worth mentioning).
After a rough April, which he finished with a 4.73 ERA due mainly to three HR allowed over 13 1/3 innings, Capps followed it up with a 1.15 ERA in May (8 R, 2 ER over 15 2/3 IP, 13 K, 2 BB), and a 2.87 ERA in June (5 ER over 15 2/3 IP, 10 K, 4 BB). July has been a revelation; thus far, Capps has set down 25 batters on strikes over 16 innings (five appearances), walking only three in the process.
Capps doesn’t waste time on the mound nibbling at the corners; he goes on the attack with a fastball that sits around 91-92 mph, throwing both two-seamers and four-seamers, and cutting it on occasion. He also throws two different breaking pitches; one is a slider that comes in anywhere from 80-84 mph and has good downward movement, the other with a tighter spin that has more lateral movement and a shorter, later break. The latter sometimes looks like more like a cutter than anything else. Capps will mix in a change-up at 81-82 mph, and though it still appears to be his third-best pitch, it shows signs of becoming at least a solid-average pitch.
Capps is a ground-ball pitcher, inducing grounders at a 54.3 percent clip so far in 2018 (2.38 GB/FB ratio), and has handled lefties and righties nearly equally well (.257 BA vs. RHB; .267 BA vs. LHB; .710 OPS vs. RHB; .690 OPS vs. LHB).
He has made only four starts this year, but certainly has the stamina to continue in that role if the Royals choose to keep him in the rotation. Capps topped 75 pitches five times in 2017, and went over 100 while with Central Oklahoma at least half a dozen starts. There is some projection remaining in his 6’2”, 180-pound frame, so it’s possible that he could add a MPH or two to his heater.
With some refinement of his change-up, Capps could become a back-of-the-rotation starter in the bigs. At the least, he presents the profile of a three-pitch reliever who can handle multiple innings and little reason to worry over match-ups vs. right-handed batters. Currently 23 years old, Capps could find himself in High-A Wilmington by early August if he continues to mow down batters.