Continuing The Times-Tribune’s annual countdown of the top 15 Yankees prospects. I rank 20 prospects, Donnie Collins ranks 20 prospects, and then we average them together. The list takes into account ETA for the big leagues. You’re going to find some guys who might not have ceilings as high as others, but who instead could be in a position to help the Yankees sooner. Since they’re so new to pro baseball, 2018 draftees are not included on the list.
Coming off a lost season, but Kyle Holder has a glove that’s big league ready. If he’s able to figure it out on the other side of the ball, the majors aren’t far away.
Acquired: Yankees first-round pick (30th overall) in 2015 out of the University of San Diego.
SWB ETA: 2019
Injured in spring training and didn’t make his season start playing regular games until May 25. Missed three more weeks in August with a concussion. Also missed time in June when he was away from the team after the death of his brother. Played 32 games at Double-A Trenton, 11 at High-A Tampa and five at Low-A Charleston. Overall, batted .257 with a .667 OPS. Joined the RailRiders for the playoffs as an emergency option off the bench, but never got into a game.
Here are some videos of Holder:
Below, Donnie and I discuss why Holder lands at No. 4 on the list, what’s good about him and what might need work.
CF: The book on this guy seems pretty straightforward: Outstanding glove, but will he hit enough? After one of the worst seasons in the Yankees system — not performance wise, but a back injury, a concussion and the death of his brother — the Yankees sent Holder to spend the postseason with the RailRiders as an emergency option. He never saw the field during a game, but he did see the field during warmups. He was so smooth. So smooth. And he had plenty of arm, too. He’s the kind of guy you buy a ticket for just to watch him in the field. If he ever figures it out at the plate, he for sure would be of some help at the big league level.
DC: I ranked him really high. Second or third in the organization, I can’t remember which. But from everything you hear and everything you see with Holder, he defends shortstop potentially at a gold glove level. That’s nothing to sneeze at, even if he never hits. Twenty or 30 years ago, he’d have been a starting major league shortstop, no questions asked. The reason I think he’s a superior prospect is because he’s this good defensively and he has only been a full-time baseball player for five years. That says something about his athleticism. He was a basketball star in high school and junior college, and he didn’t give up hoops until it became clear his future was on the diamond. I actually think his bat has come around well considering that.
CF: I talked to him in spring and he said he spent the offseason focusing on getting his legs involved more, so you’ll see a little leg kick in his swing now. He wants to be able to impact the ball more and be more than just a slap hitter. When he took batting practice with the RailRiders last year, his swing looked a little awkward. This spring, it’s looked much more smooth.
DC: I think if he, conceivably, were able to play most of the regular season last year at Tampa, he’d have had a really good season. As it was, he played a handful of games there, had a .780 OPS in a very, very limited amount of time. If he can build a .780 OPS kind of profile offensively, he’s someone’s shortstop in the bigs. He’s still such a work in progress. But you rarely see a work in progress who does something so proficiently. And he’s a wizard defensively. Now, he may not ever be a wizard for the Yankees, because he’s not going to be the hitter Didi Gregorius you’d think. But he can play himself this season into being someone some other team will badly want to have.
CF: He raked in the notoriously hitter friendly Arizona Fall League in 2017 (.333/.367/.511), so maybe it’s in there somewhere. He’s also had some struggles with injuries, which has limited him to 296 games in 3.5 seasons. the most he’s ever played in a year was 104 games in Tampa in 2017. So, he’s got to stay on the field longer and maybe he’ll get more consistent at the plate.
DC: There’s something about him. In flashes, he has hit. But he has really just had one 100-game season as a pro. He’s going to have to make some gains, and make them quickly for sure. But guys who defend like he does get chances. And i do believe he has gotten better at the plate. I think he’s primed for a really nice year.
15: Phillip Diehl (Traded to Colorado on March 23)
14: Stephen Tarpley
13: Garrett Whitlock
12: Nick Nelson
11: Albert Abreu
10: Luis Medina
9: Roansy Contreras
8: Thairo Estrada
7: Trevor Stephan
6: Clarke Schmidt
5: Deivi Garcia
4: Kyle Holder
Photo: Associated Press