2016 Statistics: 42 G, 65.1 IP, 1.65 ERA, 101 SO, 7 BB (A+/AA/AAA)
8 G, 8.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 5 SO, 4 BB (MLB)
2016 Roster Status: On the 40-man roster
In 2014, the Yankees drafted a heralded young reliever in the second round named Jacob Lindgren who was expected to make the majors almost immediately. Four rounds later, they selected Jonathan Holder with much less expectation. Since then, Lindgren has struggled with injuries and has only pitched seven major league innings. Holder dominated every level in the minors and was called up this past September, pitching 8-plus innings as the team competed for a wild card spot.
Holder won’t make any top prospect lists, partly due to the Yankees’ deep farm system, but also because he really came out of nowhere. In 2015, Holder threw 103.1 innings in Double-A as a starter with a 2.44 ERA. Then, the Yankees converted him to a reliever for 2016. In Double-A, he threw 41 innings with a 2.20 ERA, and in Triple-A, 20.1 innings with a 0.89 ERA (with an incredible 0.37 FIP). There isn’t too much to say about his performance in the minors. Holder has been a dominant pitcher at every level of the minor leagues since day one.
Most likely, the Yankees didn’t start 2016 expecting to call up Holder at any point but his performance was just so good that he really deserved the chance. It also helped him that the Yankees struggled to find any decent middle relievers. The September call up of Holder wasn’t without controversy though.
Upon being called up, it was noted that Holder had to be added to the 40-man roster. Some wondered if it was really worth it to use up a 40-man spot just for a reliever in September. In retrospect, it might have been better to save the spot, but it’s hard to blame the Yankees because they were right in the middle of the playoff hunt. They had really been struggling to get good relief innings out of anyone not named Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, or Tyler Clippard.
Hindsight is always 20/20 and Holder actually didn’t perform very well after getting called up. He had four very good outings where he gave up no runs, no walks, and only two total hits. However, he also had four bad outings where he gave up at least one run in each. It is not enough of a sample size to really judge his major league performance though.
Since Holder will most likely be on the 40-man roster to start next season, he’ll probably compete for a middle relief spot for the 2017 Yankees in spring training. He doesn’t have anything else left to prove in the minors so he will likely get a chance to make the team. Barring some major moves giving the Yankees an abundance of major league relief arms, Holder has a good chance to stick with the major league club going forward.