2015 Statistics: .213/.273/.253, 7 2B, 6 SB, 17 BB, 34 SO, 12 RBI in 225 AB
2015 Level/Roster Status: Short Season Low-A/Non-40
The Yankees selected Kyle Holder, an all-glove, no-bat shortstop, out of the University of San Diego with the 30th overall pick in the 2015 amateur draft. The second of the team's two first-rounders, Holder was chosen with the compensatory pick New York received from the White Sox upon signing David Robertson. There are few doubts about his glove—many pundits agreed Holder was the top defensive shortstop in the draft class—but his poor offensive showing in Staten Island was not nearly enough to assuage concerns about his bat.
The lefty-swinging Holder, 21, slashed .348/.418/.482 as a college junior this past spring. He led the USD Toros to a winning record of 33-22, starting all 55 games at short while bopping four homers and maintaining an even strikeout-to-walk ratio (19 apiece). For his efforts, Holder was recognized as the top player in his conference, winning West Coast Conference Player of the Year. His batting average crept up nearly 50 points from the season before and his slugging also increased considerably. Since he was already one of the best defensive infielders in amateur baseball, his offensive maturation only aided his draft stock.
Still, Holder struggled once he reached the pros. Playing at short-season Staten Island, Holder's age was average for his competition. His bat, however, was subpar. Holder struggled to hit above the Mendoza Line and provided such little power that his on-base percentage actually topped his slugging.
In the field, though, Holder shined. Starting 56 games, all at shortstop, he displayed both smooth hands and balanced footwork. His agility allows him to reach deep in the hole for ground balls and his strong throwing arm allows him to make tough plays quickly. Facing professional competition for the first time, Holder committed just eight errors. His .970 fielding percentage was the highest among Staten Island infielders. Baseball America said that he had the best defensive debut of all players selected in the 2015 Draft.
Clearly, the bulk of Holder's value is going to come on defense. But if he gets his swing in order, he might soon ascend the ranks. The glove is there and when drafting college players, the expectation is that they will be able to develop relatively quickly. Still, Holder needs to demonstrate progress with the bat next season. He isn't super young and although he plays a position where offense isn't emphasized, there are certain offensive minimums he needs to meet as a first round pick.
At 6'1", 185 lbs, Holder is a good size for a shortstop. He's a bit thin, but he's strong. An extra 10-15 pounds wouldn't hurt him, though. Physically, as well as skill-wise, Holder has major improvements to make if he is to ever supplant Didi Gregorius as the Yankees' starting shortstop. He's already behind two of the Yankees' better prospects in Tyler Wade and Jorge Mateo. Yup, still should have signed Yoan Moncada...
Holder is a candidate to open next season in Low-A Charleston, although it wouldn't shock me if management wants him to stick around in extended spring to work on offensive fundamentals before reassigning him to Staten Island. If Holder hasn't played his way into A-ball by this time next year, it will be a problem.
In terms of projecting him into the big leagues, Holder's skill set leaves a wide gap between his ceiling and his floor. Should he break out offensively—a la Dustin Fowler—he might project as a passable every day shortstop. After all, Jose Iglesias learned how to hit at the big-league level. But it would be quite surprising if Holder developed into an all-star like Iglesias did.
The Yankees have whiffed on one first round shortstop recently (Cito Culver, anybody?), but the expectation is that Holder will at least become a playable major leaguer. He's a Brendan Ryan type. He won't hit much and he certainly won't drive the ball. But he's a sound defender and his arm gives him the ability to become above-average at all three infield positions. Should he develop defensive versatility, Holder might one day earn a roster spot as a utility infielder. Unfortunately, that outcome is a bit disappointing for a first round talent.