Examining Rule 5 Eligible Players: Kyle Holder

The annual Rule 5 draft is a chance for prospects to get a new start with a different organization and quite possibly get a chance to make their major league debut.  This series we will take a look a select few Yankees prospects that are eligible for the 2018 Rule 5 draft look at reasons why they could be protected, selected, or left alone.

Trenton Thunder’s Kyle Holder in a game against the Hartford Yard Goats in Trenton on Wednesday, July 25, 2018. (Photo by Martin Griff)

Kyle Holder – Infielder


The Yankees selected Kyle Holder with the 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2015 Draft, their second pick that year out of the University of San Diego.  As a former two-sport athlete in college, the Yankees liked what they saw and took a flyer on the slick fielding, light hitting infielder.

Holder made his professional debut with the Staten Island Yankees in 2015, where he struggled hitting .213/.273/.253 in 56 games. Despite his struggles, he put together strong at-bats that showcased his promise at the plate and some of the best fielding at any level of baseball.

“We’ve seen the guy play defense, it’s pretty special,” said Pat Osborn his manager with Staten Island in 2015.

The following season he was promoted to the Charleston RiverDogs of the South Atlantic League where he hit .290/.317/.350 in 88 total games. That season he had 13 doubles, two triples, one home run while driving in 18 runs and stealing eight bases. It was in 2016 that he began to show how strong of a hitter he is when he is able to focus solely on baseball.

“There is room for improvement every day when you don’t have to worry about going from basketball practice to baseball to school back to the family. Being able to focus on one sport is is good,” he told us back in 2015.

Defensively the 2016 season is when the Yankees began to work on his versatility, having him play second base as well as shortstop.

“I’ve been playing shortstop my whole life and this my first year playing in competitive games at second base. It was a little adjustment, but now it’s getting better.” He told our own Joe Dixon in 2016.

His strong hitting continued in 2017 when he hit .271/.317/.350 in 104 games with the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League.  That year he hit 16 doubles, two triples, four home runs and drove in 44 runs. Holder went on to add even more versatility to his game, seeing time at third base in addition to the middle infield position.  His strong defense earned him honors when he was named the best defensive shortstop in the minors by MLB Pipeline.

The Yankees liked what they saw out of Holder and assigned him to the Arizona Fall League in 2017.  It is out in Arizona where he began to open some eyes, hitting .333/.367/.511 in 11 games for the Scottsdale Scorpions with three doubles, a triple and a home run.

During Spring Training 2018 he once again made people notice, hitting .471/.500/.547 in 10 games with three doubles for the Yankees.  He was all set to begin the season in Double-A when he suffered a fractured vertebra that saw him miss significant time.

Holder returned to game action in May with a brief five-game stint with the Charleston RiverDogs.  He went to spend 11 games with the Tampa Tarpons before finally making his Double-A debut in July with the Trenton Thunder.  Between all three-levels he had just 48 games, hitting .257/.317/.350 with six doubles, a triple, three home runs, and 22 RBIs.

Why Should He Be Protected?

Ever since he was drafted the book on Holder was that he had major league-quality defense with a below-average bat.  Over his four-year minor league career, he has proven that the bat is not as big of a weakness as many initially thought while maintaining high-quality defense.

Going into the 2019 season the Yankees have a lot of questions at the middle infield positions.  Tyler Wade has not developed as many hoped, Didi Gregorius will miss some time due to Tommy John surgery, and Thairo Estrada missed most of the 2018 season.  That would make Holder relatively close to the major leagues on the depth chart.

Holder can be a strong utility infielder in his Rule 5 year, and it would not be as far of a stretch as it was when Luis Torrens was selected a few years back.  Holder’s plus defense, solid base running instincts and a bat that is coming around make him a prime target for a team looking for a cheap option off the bench.

Why Should He Be Left Exposed?

Even with the injury to Didi Gregorius, the Yankees do have a lot of upper-level depth in the middle infield with Ronald Torreyes, Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada.  That may make it redundant to protect Holder as well.  The Yankees might just opt to sign a cheap free agent to help fill the void while Didi is out to make up the difference.

Holder’s injury history is a concern too, each of the last three seasons he has spent considerable time on the disabled list.  Combine that with seeing only limited action in 2018; it is entirely possible that teams may pass on him due to fears he would see significant time on the disabled list.

It is without a doubt that Kyle Holder is a talented shortstop and will see some time in the major leagues. It is just not known yet if he is close enough to the major leagues for a team to take a chance on him in December.