With the 30th overall pick of the 2015 First-Year-Player Draft the New York Yankees selected shortstop Kyle Holder out of the University of San Diego. Coming into the draft he was ranked by Baseball America as the #37th top prospect while MLB.com had him listed as #51. When it came time for the Yankees to pick for the second time in the first round they jumped at the chance to sign what was considered by many in the game as the top fielding shortstop in the entire class. A former two-sport athlete, he only recently began focusing solely on baseball.
“It is a little different from college,” Kyle told us, “getting to the locker room every day and getting mentally prepared not worrying about school is defiantly a fun thing to not worry about, it’s just going out to the field and getting my extra work in and stuff like that.”
There has been a lot of criticism of the New York Yankees decision to select Holder with their 30th overall pick. Initial reaction was that the Yankees picked a guy that was all too similar to Brendan Ryan, a glove-first light-hitting shortstop. “I don’t even look at that stuff,” Holder said, “people say what they want.” The big club certainly does not share the same mindset as those who criticize the pick, the feeling is the more he focuses just on baseball the more offense will come.
“A lot of people don’t understand what comes with being that high of a pick and the pressure that is on these kids,” said Staten Island manager Pat Osborn, “The expectations that is laid upon them. They forget that this kid is 21 years old and there is a lot of development to go.”
Kyle has shown flashes of coming around with that bat this season, but has struggled to find consistency at the plate. A lot of times he will hit the ball hard, right on the screws only for it to find a fielder’s glove. He does not strike out often, only 16 strikeouts in 131 at bats this season, the only regular with less strikeouts is Jake Hernandez who has 36 less at bats.
At the half-way point through the season Holder is starting to get comfortable to life in professional baseball. “I’m getting used to that wood bat again,” he said. “It takes a while after using aluminum for two years.”
“There is room for improvement every day when you don’t have to worry about going from basketball practice to baseball to school back to the family. Being able to focus on one sport is definitely is good.”
Every day Kyle comes to the ballpark to work with Staten Island Yankees Hitting Coach Eric Duncan, working hard to make himself better at the plate. “We are working on everything, approach, discipline, and the pitches I like to swing at,” he told us. “As well as staying within my body and try not to do too much.”
There has been no question about Holder’s ability to play the field. “We’ve seen the guy play defense, it’s pretty special,” said Osborn. This season he has only made 5 errors in 144 total chances, turning 13 double plays in the process. Out on the field he is smooth, shows good range and gets good reads on the ball.
Either way Kyle keeps his focus, “I just try to focus on one thing at a time whether it is defense or hitting.” And it has not gone unnoticed by Pat Osborn, “He does a good job of not taking his at bats out to the field.”
There is no doubt that Holder will get better as he continues to adjust. “He is getting more comfortable,” Osborn told us, “it is an adjustment. Especially for a guy that goes 30th overall, there are outside pressure and a lot of people evaluating him. He has to worry about the process and not results.” At the low levels it is all about development and Holder knows it. He will continue to come out to the ballpark and get is work in. “I am just one of the guys,” he said. “Whether I was a 40th round pick or a first round pick I am out here just trying to get better and ultimately help my team win.”