Drafted 30th overall by the New York Yankees in the first round as a compensation pick in 2015, many experts considered shortstop Kyle Holder the best defensive player at his position among last year’s draft class and he lived up to his advanced billing with the glove while continuing to refine his skills at the plate with the short-season Staten Island Yankees.
Before spending two seasons with the University of San Diego as a shortstop, Holder starred as a point guard on the basketball team at Grossmout College, developing the hand-eye coordination and quickness necessary to make a smooth transition to shortstop. In addition to his quick reflexes in the field, Holder put together a stellar 2015 college season at the plate, batting .348/.418/.482 with four home runs and 31 runs batted in, with a equal amount of walks and strikeouts.
Assigned to Staten Island after quickly signing his first professional contract, Holder struggled at the plate for much of the season batting just .213, but caught fire at the end of the year after being moved to the bottom of the order. Although his hitting was a work in progress, his fielding continued to dazzle, making nearly every routine play with soft hands, strong athleticism, and an accurate throwing arm.
Holder explains that being able to have consistent at-bats for the first time in his career was vital in his first season in professional baseball after spending much of his time as a two sport athlete. “It’s all about confidence,” Holder says. “The adjustment from college to pro baseball was a bit of a challenge. Seeing at-bats every day after not being able to do so playing basketball will definitely help me improve”.
Despite not getting the results expected at the plate, Holder displayed an advanced approach in the batter’s box, consistently hitting the ball the other way and avoided strikeouts when working deep counts. Holder can occasionally flash some warning track power, which may develop into something more substantial in the future.
Coming out of the draft, most scouts believed that Holder’s defense was major league ready while his bat needed seasoning. Most of the those projections held true in Holder’s pro debut and with Jorge Mateo, Tyler Wade, and Abiatal Avelino ahead of him in the system at the shortstop position, the Yankees will bring him along slowly and likely start him at Class-A Charleston as he gradually adjusts to minor league pitching.