Kyle Holder was available in the Rule 5 draft back in December, and the Cincinnati Reds had some interest in the shortstop from the New York Yankees. Unfortunately for the Reds, though, the Philadelphia Phillies also had some interest and they were picking earlier in the draft and the Phillies chose Holder. But when Philadelphia signed Didi Gregorius in free agency, that meant that Holder no longer had room with the Phillies. That path led to him being traded to Cincinnati, where he had a better path to making the big league roster.
“I got a call from the General Manager of the Phillies Sam Fuld and he pretty much told me ‘we’ve traded you to Cincinnati and with Didi re-signing we needed a spot open,” said Holder. “I know Cincinnati was high on you, and I think you’re going to have a better opportunity over there to make the club. So, yeah, we traded you do Cincinnati – best of luck’. Short and sweet.”
In 2019 he spent the entire year in Double-A Trenton with the Yankees organization. All of his games came at shortstop and he hit .265/.336/.405 on the season in 112 games with 41 walks and 65 strikeouts. His nine home runs were easily the most he had ever hit in a season as a professional and accounted for more than half of his career total (17 in 408 games). While he did really pick up things in the home run department compared to his past performance, he doesn’t see himself as a power hitter.
“I would say a line drive, gap to gap guy,” said Holder. “The moment I try to start doing more and try to hit home runs, I think everything starts to fall apart. I think if I stick to that approach, hitting the ball hard on a line in the gaps, and occasionally run into one, can put the ball in play, hit and runs, bunts – that kind of stuff.”
While there weren’t games, so-to-speak, last year for Kyle Holder, he did spend his year at the Yankees alternate site. While there he worked on plenty of things, preparing for a call up in case the situation arose.
“I was able to work a lot at the alternate site with how much downtime we had and how much time we had at the field,” said Holder. “Just really focusing on the kind of hitter I know that I am and being the best hitter I can be and not trying to do too much and be someone I’m not. I’ve learned how to understand my body and how my body works and what’s comfortable for me, what’s efficient for me. Learned how to use my legs a lot more, how to have a proper and efficient load. How to create some separation for a little more pop, I guess you could say. But I think I’m getting better every day and that’s my goal just keep fine tuning until the end of my career, it’s to just try to get better every day and be the most efficient offensive player I can.”
It’s not so much the bat that Kyle Holder is known for. The shortstop is more known for his defensive prowess. The scouting reports indicate an above-average fielder. Holder credits playing basketball while growing up as one of the reasons he’s a strong defender.
“I try to make the routine play,” Holder said. “I played basketball when I was younger and a lot of people say me playing basketball up until college helped me out playing defense – being able to move left and right. I grew up watching a lot of infielders and how easy they make it look, and I just tried to emulate that as I grew up. Obviously I worked with a lot of defensive coaches and things like that, but I think a lot of it came naturally, honestly. I tell people that I just work hard and try to make the plays. ”
With Cincinnati, he’s battling for a spot on the roster, but also for the starting shortstop job. Among the players vying for the spot as a starter, only Jose Garcia’s got a leg up on him defensively. Offensively he doesn’t stick out, but at this point, neither does anyone else he’s up against. It’s tough to know entirely what to expect in 2021 given that there’s nothing to really look at from 2020, even though he was facing quality pitching at the alternate site for a few months – the public simply doesn’t have any idea of what that looked like. Holder has to make the big league team to remain in the organization as a Rule 5 pick. He’s hoping to make it a tough choice for the front office, but plans to treat spring training like any other year.
“Kind of just take it like any other camp,” said Holder. “Work hard and make them have to make the tough decision at the end of camp to keep me. So I’m just going to be here, work hard, try to get better each day, and control what I can control.”