Hollon Working To Be The Best

DUNEDIN, FL - Perhaps in an attempt to restock the farm system's presently thin collection of pitching prospects, Toronto spent its first nine picks on pitchers in June's Amateur draft. With 1st-round pick Phil Bickford electing to pursue a higher education at Cal State Fullerton, the brightest talent that the Blue Jays came away with in the draft was 2nd-round pick Clinton Hollon.

Hollon's stock was at an all-time high during his junior year at Woodford County high school, as ESPN's Jason Churchill dubbed the Kentucky native as the nation's top high school right-handed pitcher. However, what was originally believed to be forearm tendonitis cropped up towards the end of his junior year, which forced him to miss a few starts.

He developed tightness in his forearm at the East Coast Pro Showcase during that summer and ended up rehabbing the injury for about a month during the winter. After being drafted by the Blue Jays, Hollon had a mandatory MRI done, which revealed a 50-percent tear in his ulnar collateral ligament – the Tommy John ligament.

"I came down here and they had all top-5 rounders do an MRI," Hollon explained. "They said something looked a little funny with it, so they went in there and shot some kind of dye in it and there was a leak, so they said there was a 50-percent tear in it and I left here and got sent home.

"Dr. [James] Andrews and Dr. [Robert] Hosey looked at it. Dr. Andrews said there was nothing really too wrong with it. By having surgery I could make it worse I guess, so there's either a chance of it not tearing or tearing. They say it's a little high-risk."

Reflecting back on his string of forearm injuries, Hollon believes that the partial tear was the likely culprit behind what bothered him during high school.

"I don't think I had tendonitis, I think I had torn it then. I rehabbed it with my physical therapist Scott Crook, who actually did physical therapy with my high school coach [former MLB pitcher Jeff Parrett] when he had Tommy John in the majors, so he knew what he was talking about and we got all of that taken care of."

Having a partial tear in a ligament, which when fully torn typically requires a 12-18 month timeframe for recovery, raises some red flags. However, Hollon didn't appear to be too concerned going forward.

"I don't really worry about it, because if it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen. I'm just going out there and doing what I can now.

"I haven't had any trouble with it ever since [rehabbing last winter]. I threw a high school season with it with no pain and I've throw down here with no pain.

"I actually talked to our pitching coach [Willie Collazo] and he said he didn't see how I've had any kind of problem with my elbow. It feels great and I really haven't felt any better. My velocity is back and I can throw the curveball and slider anytime I want to without any pain. It's been great."

Since joining the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Hollon has been absolutely lights-out. Through his first four outings, the 18-year-old has allowed just two hits across twelve innings while boasting a better than three to one strikeout to walk ratio. Hollon was beaming with excitement as he explained the adrenaline rush that has come with his first professional season, particularly during his debut.

"It's been amazing, really. I was throwing about 94-96 MPH my first outing, which was the first time I've really seen those numbers since about my junior year. I just had a lot of adrenaline and I've been going after hitters.

"In high school I was usually living around 92-94. I would hit 94 in every start, but I haven't seen that 95 and 96 since my junior summer when I was in East Cobb, so it felt good to get out there. I think a lot of that comes with the adrenaline too.

"I'm a very high-intensity guy, so once I get that adrenaline pumping, I'll get those extra couple miles an hour. Every time I hit 96-98, it was always in Atlanta or Jupiter with a whole bunch of scouts there.

"I love this game. It's all I want to do, so I got my first start and I was pumped."

During his previous two outings, Hollon has settled back into the 93-94 MPH range while topping out at 95 MPH. Commanding the fastball has been a central focus for the hurler, who feels he has progressively improved at keeping the ball down in the zone over his three starts. When asked what stood out the most about the 18-year-old's repertoire, Blue Jays pitching coach Willie Collazo quickly asserted that it was his heater.

"He's able to locate the fastball where he wants to down in the strike zone," Collazo said. "It's coming out pretty hard and location is one of the things that is hard to teach. Being a guy that throws hard and locates his pitches at his age, that's something that's a big plus."

In addition to the fastball, Hollon features a sharp slider that typically sits at about 86-87 MPH, a knuckle-curve that ranges from the high-70's to low 80's, and a mid-80's changeup.

Hollon tends to rely on the slider as his out pitch, particularly against right-handed batters. He admitted that he has a harder time controlling the slider compared to the curveball and that he tends to shy away from using the slider to punch out lefties.

"I'll try to throw [the slider] a little harder, so it's got a sharper but bigger break on it," he said, "but I throw it more to righties because of that hard sweeping [action]. I don't want to be 0-2 and hit a lefty in the foot, so I've got the 12-6 curveball that I'll throw to lefties and I can get that to throw for a strike or if I need to bury it and get a strikeout with it."

Hollon acknowledged that of his two breaking pitches, he's more comfortable using the knuckle-curve to generate strikes. However, he's working on getting the slider to a point where he can rely on it not only for strikeouts, but to be able to throw it for a strike early in the count. He went on to explain how exactly the curveball ended up becoming a part of his repertoire.

"Originally my curveball was the slider and I threw it really hard. I was actually watching Sports Science and they said the 12-6 was harder to hit than something that's sweeping across, so I kind of developed that because I wanted to have both of them. I've really started throwing that since about my sophomore year and it just kind of turned into a pretty good pitch."

The pitch in Hollon's four-pitch arsenal that needs the most refinement is his changeup, which he tries to use early in the count versus lefties and will occasionally employ against righties.

"I have a pretty good changeup that's just inconsistent at times. I'll throw six straight good ones in the bullpen and then get in the game and it'll be one out of five," Hollon admitted. "I think I probably threw four changeups my whole high school career, but I've worked a lot on it in the bullpen.

"I just got to move it into my game-speed pitches, but I threw four or five of them [in my second outing] and I got two groundouts with it so I felt good with that. Hopefully I'll start getting a little bit more action on it and get some swing-and-misses with it to the lefties."

Hollon appears to have put the concerns about the elbow behind him for the time being, but he is still a high-risk prospect. His first handful of starts in the Gulf Coast League are indicative of the raw talent and potential that he possesses, but there is concern about the effort in his delivery, especially given his injury history.

The upside for Hollon is as a number two or three starter at the major league level, but his changeup is going to have to develop into a legitimate pitch in order for him to mature into an effective big league starting pitcher. Without it, Hollon may be better suited as a solid relief arm.

Through his first handful of starts, Hollon has proven that he is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on in the coming years. His repertoire has excellent potential, but perhaps the most impressive aspects of his game are the feel he shows for his pitches in game situations and the approach he takes on the mound.

A lot of 18-year-olds in the Gulf Coast League can throw the ball hard or boast a notable secondary offering. This guy knows how to pitch.

While Hollon still has room to grow, he's ready for the grind and possesses the drive and determination to reach the major league level. Confidence certainly isn't lacking.

"Anybody can be good one day, but you got to be good everyday, or at least decent everyday. You won't have your best stuff everyday, but you got to go out there and compete. That's what I do.

"I'm a competitor and a bulldog on the mound. I feel like when I'm out there, there's no one who can touch me. I don't care if it's Albert Pujols or whoever the best hitter in the game is right now.

"I'm in there working every day because I want to be the best I can be and get the most out of my talents. At the end of the day, I want to be the best professional baseball pitcher that there has ever been."


Future Jays Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nHollon's stock was at an all-time high during his junior year at Woodford County high school, as ESPN's Jason Churchill dubbed the Kentucky native as the nation's top high school right-handed pitcher. However, what was originally believed to be forearm tendonitis cropped up towards the end of his junior year, which forced him to miss a few starts.
\r\n
\r\nHe developed tightness in his forearm at the East Coast Pro Showcase during that summer and ended up rehabbing the injury for about a month during the winter. After being drafted by the Blue Jays, Hollon had a mandatory MRI done, which revealed a 50-percent tear in his ulnar collateral ligament – the Tommy John ligament.
\r\n
\r\n\"I came down here and they had all top-5 rounders do an MRI,\" Hollon explained. \"They said something looked a little funny with it, so they went in there and shot some kind of dye in it and there was a leak, so they said there was a 50-percent tear in it and I left here and got sent home.
\r\n
\r\n\"Dr. [James] Andrews and Dr. [Robert] Hosey looked at it. Dr. Andrews said there was nothing really too wrong with it. By having surgery I could make it worse I guess, so there's either a chance of it not tearing or tearing. They say it's a little high-risk.\"
\r\n
\r\nReflecting back on his string of forearm injuries, Hollon believes that the partial tear was the likely culprit behind what bothered him during high school.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't think I had tendonitis, I think I had torn it then. I rehabbed it with my physical therapist Scott Crook, who actually did physical therapy with my high school coach [former MLB pitcher Jeff Parrett] when he had Tommy John in the majors, so he knew what he was talking about and we got all of that taken care of.\"
\r\n
\r\nHaving a partial tear in a ligament, which when fully torn typically requires a 12-18 month timeframe for recovery, raises some red flags. However, Hollon didn't appear to be too concerned going forward.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't really worry about it, because if it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen. I'm just going out there and doing what I can now.
\r\n
\r\n\"I haven't had any trouble with it ever since [rehabbing last winter]. I threw a high school season with it with no pain and I've throw down here with no pain.
\r\n
\r\n\"I actually talked to our pitching coach [Willie Collazo] and he said he didn't see how I've had any kind of problem with my elbow. It feels great and I really haven't felt any better. My velocity is back and I can throw the curveball and slider anytime I want to without any pain. It's been great.\"
\r\n
\r\nSince joining the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays, Hollon has been absolutely lights-out. Through his first four outings, the 18-year-old has allowed just two hits across twelve innings while boasting a better than three to one strikeout to walk ratio. Hollon was beaming with excitement as he explained the adrenaline rush that has come with his first professional season, particularly during his debut.
\r\n
\r\n\"It's been amazing, really. I was throwing about 94-96 MPH my first outing, which was the first time I've really seen those numbers since about my junior year. I just had a lot of adrenaline and I've been going after hitters.
\r\n
\r\n\"In high school I was usually living around 92-94. I would hit 94 in every start, but I haven't seen that 95 and 96 since my junior summer when I was in East Cobb, so it felt good to get out there. I think a lot of that comes with the adrenaline too.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm a very high-intensity guy, so once I get that adrenaline pumping, I'll get those extra couple miles an hour. Every time I hit 96-98, it was always in Atlanta or Jupiter with a whole bunch of scouts there.
\r\n
\r\n\"I love this game. It's all I want to do, so I got my first start and I was pumped.\"
\r\n
\r\nDuring his previous two outings, Hollon has settled back into the 93-94 MPH range while topping out at 95 MPH. Commanding the fastball has been a central focus for the hurler, who feels he has progressively improved at keeping the ball down in the zone over his three starts. When asked what stood out the most about the 18-year-old's repertoire, Blue Jays pitching coach Willie Collazo quickly asserted that it was his heater.
\r\n
\r\n\"He's able to locate the fastball where he wants to down in the strike zone,\" Collazo said. \"It's coming out pretty hard and location is one of the things that is hard to teach. Being a guy that throws hard and locates his pitches at his age, that's something that's a big plus.\"
\r\n
\r\nIn addition to the fastball, Hollon features a sharp slider that typically sits at about 86-87 MPH, a knuckle-curve that ranges from the high-70's to low 80's, and a mid-80's changeup.
\r\n
\r\nHollon tends to rely on the slider as his out pitch, particularly against right-handed batters. He admitted that he has a harder time controlling the slider compared to the curveball and that he tends to shy away from using the slider to punch out lefties.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'll try to throw [the slider] a little harder, so it's got a sharper but bigger break on it,\" he said, \"but I throw it more to righties because of that hard sweeping [action]. I don't want to be 0-2 and hit a lefty in the foot, so I've got the 12-6 curveball that I'll throw to lefties and I can get that to throw for a strike or if I need to bury it and get a strikeout with it.\"
\r\n
\r\nHollon acknowledged that of his two breaking pitches, he's more comfortable using the knuckle-curve to generate strikes. However, he's working on getting the slider to a point where he can rely on it not only for strikeouts, but to be able to throw it for a strike early in the count. He went on to explain how exactly the curveball ended up becoming a part of his repertoire.
\r\n
\r\n\"Originally my curveball was the slider and I threw it really hard. I was actually watching Sports Science and they said the 12-6 was harder to hit than something that's sweeping across, so I kind of developed that because I wanted to have both of them. I've really started throwing that since about my sophomore year and it just kind of turned into a pretty good pitch.\"
\r\n
\r\nThe pitch in Hollon's four-pitch arsenal that needs the most refinement is his changeup, which he tries to use early in the count versus lefties and will occasionally employ against righties.
\r\n
\r\n\"I have a pretty good changeup that's just inconsistent at times. I'll throw six straight good ones in the bullpen and then get in the game and it'll be one out of five,\" Hollon admitted. \"I think I probably threw four changeups my whole high school career, but I've worked a lot on it in the bullpen.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just got to move it into my game-speed pitches, but I threw four or five of them [in my second outing] and I got two groundouts with it so I felt good with that. Hopefully I'll start getting a little bit more action on it and get some swing-and-misses with it to the lefties.\"
\r\n
\r\nHollon appears to have put the concerns about the elbow behind him for the time being, but he is still a high-risk prospect. His first handful of starts in the Gulf Coast League are indicative of the raw talent and potential that he possesses, but there is concern about the effort in his delivery, especially given his injury history.
\r\n
\r\nThe upside for Hollon is as a number two or three starter at the major league level, but his changeup is going to have to develop into a legitimate pitch in order for him to mature into an effective big league starting pitcher. Without it, Hollon may be better suited as a solid relief arm.
\r\n
\r\nThrough his first handful of starts, Hollon has proven that he is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on in the coming years. His repertoire has excellent potential, but perhaps the most impressive aspects of his game are the feel he shows for his pitches in game situations and the approach he takes on the mound.
\r\n
\r\nA lot of 18-year-olds in the Gulf Coast League can throw the ball hard or boast a notable secondary offering. This guy knows how to pitch.
\r\n
\r\nWhile Hollon still has room to grow, he's ready for the grind and possesses the drive and determination to reach the major league level. Confidence certainly isn't lacking.
\r\n
\r\n\"Anybody can be good one day, but you got to be good everyday, or at least decent everyday. You won't have your best stuff everyday, but you got to go out there and compete. That's what I do.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm a competitor and a bulldog on the mound. I feel like when I'm out there, there's no one who can touch me. I don't care if it's Albert Pujols or whoever the best hitter in the game is right now.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm in there working every day because I want to be the best I can be and get the most out of my talents. At the end of the day, I want to be the best professional baseball pitcher that there has ever been.\"
\r\n
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