After a strong 2018 campaign, Jonathan Holder entered this season firmly in Aaron Boone’s “circle of trust” coming out of the Yankees bullpen. He was called on early, often in close games and big spots, but struggled tremendously in March and early April. Despite a strong month of May, Holder was not able to maintain his momentum and once again became a liability coming out of the bullpen as the season entered the summer months.
The 2019 season was a step backwards for Holder, who has been up and down between the majors and minors every season since his major league debut in 2016.
2019 Statistics: 41.1 innings, 6.31 ERA, 46 strikeouts, 1.306 WHIP, 10.0 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 4.45 FIP, -0.9 WAR
2020 Contract Status: Pre-arbitration eligible
Holder’s season was a mess from the start, as he gave up eight runs in his first 11 innings, with most of that damage coming against eventual 100 game losers Baltimore, Kansas City, and Detroit. The Yankees continued to lean on Holder, as multiple injuries on the pitching staff and Chad Green’s April demotion to Triple-A limited Boone’s options for piecing together nine innings day in and day out.
Holder was was able to right the ship momentarily, putting together an strong six-week stretch beginning at the end of April. With improved performances, the Yankees again began to lean on Holder, only to see the wheels fall off in early June. He allowed a 1.430 OPS against over seven appearances in a stretch that culminated with him being optioned to Triple-A Scranton.
In 2018, Holder was sent to the minors in early April after proving ineffective out of the gate. His stay at Triple-A that time was short, but beneficial, as he returned to the majors and pitched to a 2.42 ERA, and a 1.02 WHIP for the remainder of the year.
For a brief moment it looked like the trip to the minors would work its magic on Holder for the second straight season. He only allowed one baserunner in his first five innings of work back with the big league club in late July and August. That success was short lived, and like most of his 2019 Yankees teammates, he found his way to the injured list on August 10th with shoulder inflammation. That eventually landed him on the 60 day injured list, ending his season.
For all the struggles, Holder was able to strikeout more than a batter per inning, establishing a new career high in that category. He is still pre-arbitration, and he also has one minor league option heading into 2020, giving the Yankees flexibility with his roster spot. Holder is not far removed from an outstanding finish to 2018. With new and hopefully improved pitching minds like Sam Briend and Matt Blake in the fold, it is possible that they can tap into what Holder does well and help him execute it more consistently.