The New York Yankees drafted Kyle Holder out of the University of San Diego in the first round of the 2015 draft with the 30th overall pick. Holder skipped his senior season at San Diego and signed a $1.8 million signing bonus to join the Yankees.
Although selected in the first round, he was the second player drafted by the Yankees in the 2015 draft after selecting James Kaprielian with the 16th overall pick.
Fresh off of his junior year at San Diego, Holder was assigned to the Staten Island Yankees to start his professional career. He played in 56 games, all of them at shortstop. He struggled at the plate hitting .213/.273/.253 in 225 at bats. Out of his 48 hits, seven were doubles to go with one triple. He stole six bags out of eight attempts.
Defensively, Holder played excellent at shortstop where he only committed seven errors out of 266 chances.
Holder was promoted to the Charleston RiverDogs where he was paired with Hoy Jun Park, another highly regarded prospect in the Yankees system. Holder and Park would alternate between shortstop and second base, which was a new position for Holder.
Holder benefited from the tutelage of Yankees minor league roving hitting instructor James Rowson and RiverDogs hitting coach Greg Colbrunn. “Our hitting coordinator James Rousen works a lot on just some simple mechanics stuff like load and separation, and short, direct path to the ball and using left-center field, right-center field as a target,” Holder said. He also added about Colbrunn, “I got a great hitting coach, Greg Colbrunn; he helps out a lot. He hones in on having a routine, sticking it out whether you’re going good or going bad.”
In 88 games, Holder posted a .290/.323/.347 line. He had 102 hits on the season with 13 doubles and two triples. That’s a significant improvement over his numbers the year before at Staten Island and his offense was an area of concern coming into 2016.
The highlight of his season at the plate was his 16 game hitting streak in May. During the hitting streak, Holder batted .349.
Defensively, Holder had another excellent year. In 230 chances at shortstop, he committed only seven errors in 55 games at shortstop. In 24 games at second base, he only committed two errors in 116 chances. “It’s always cool going from a position that you’re not sure with and playing there for a couple of games and then going back to your natural position,” Holder said of getting time in at second base.
Holder did miss some time in 2016 due to a couple of injuries. The first injury occurred early in the year in April where he suffered an undisclosed upper body injury. The second injury occurred in July where he hurt his ankle hitting the bag beating out a bunt single.
Holder’s an excellent defensive player and is a natural shortstop. Holder played basketball and was even planning on playing collegiately until ultimately deciding to play baseball exclusively. Those skills have translated over to his defensive game as he has excellent range and footwork in the field. His transition to playing second base has been smooth, and it certainly makes him a more valuable player in the system.
Holder isn’t huge in stature, but the more strength he puts on as he develops, he will improve his power numbers. With that said, his strength is being a contact hitter with good speed.
Another advantage Holder has is that he’s mature and knows what he has to do to improve. He’s very aware that he’s not going to hit 20 home runs a season and keeps to a contact approach at the plate. He doesn’t try to be something he’s not at the plate.
Holder needs to continue his improvement at the plate and continue to play stellar defense. With more strength will come more doubles and triples. 2016 was a big step forward for Holder, and as long as he stays healthy, he has a chance to continue to improve at the plate. Holder will continue to see time at shortstop and second base. He is a natural shortstop with great range, so the Yankees will keep him playing the bulk of his time there.
With the depth in the middle infield in the Yankees system, he may end up in Charleston to start 2017, but he has a shot to start at Tampa. If he doesn’t start in Tampa, he will most likely end up the season there.