When the Cincinnati Reds were looking for shortstop options this offseason they took a chance on acquiring Kyle Holder from the Philadelphia Phillies. Holder was with the Phillies after they selected him in the Rule 5 draft from the New York Yankees back in December, but after they signed Didi Gregorius they didn’t feel Holder had a spot on their team.
When coming to Cincinnati, Kyle Holder didn’t specifically have a spot on the team either. But the Reds did have a need for a shortstop and at the time they didn’t really have anyone looking like the spot was theirs for the taking. Holder is known for his glove work. He’s considered an above-average to plus defender at shortstop. What he hasn’t been known for to this point in his career is his bat. In his minor league career he’s got a .667 OPS for his career, though in 2019 in Double-A with Trenton he did hit .265/.336/.405 while showing more power than he had ever shown before.
This spring, though, he hasn’t shown much with the bat. The 26-year-old infielder has hit just .219/.359/.250. He’s drawn seven walks and struck out 10 times in his 39 plate appearances, but he’s only had one double among his seven total hits.
With Eugenio Suárez getting the nod as the starting shortstop, that job is closed to Kyle Holder. So that begs the question of does he make sense as a bench player? Among the players remaining in big league camp he is the best defensive shortstop, and it’s probably not all that close. When it comes to being the backup shortstop he’s competing with Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino. Blandino has a better bat and track record with the bat, and he’s also got some experience at other positions on the field that provide versatility. Farmer is almost assuredly going to make the team due to his versatility to play behind the plate and around the infield. The Reds seem comfortable enough with him to play some shortstop from a defensive standpoint, too.
For Kyle Holder the decision may come down to the simple question of: Does the team want to carry a glove-only shortstop on the roster, or are they comfortable with not-so-traditional shortstop options if something were to happen to Suárez and they needed someone to step in short term, or if they needed a longer-term solution dipping into the minors and bringing up Jose Garcia or Alfredo Rodriguez depending on how each were playing at the time?
Does the bench just work better with Farmer and Blandino as the backup infielders while keeping your long-term shortstop options in the minors if you need them? Does it make sense to carry a guy for a situation you hope doesn’t arise, and if it does you probably have similar enough options in the minors you can go to?
From my seat 2500 miles away from Goodyear, it’s tough to see where Kyle Holder fits in right now. In a different era before shifts were the norm and the ability to position your fielders well wasn’t there, Holder could make more sense. But that time in baseball isn’t now. His value is with his glove, and that glove simply isn’t likely to be used much on this team with this lineup.