Jonathan Holder’s task entering spring training with the New York Yankees will be challenging, to say the least. Mississippi State product Holder will be trying to nail down a job in what mlb.com speculates might be the best bullpen of all-time. Holder, 24, has pitched well in his 45 MLB appearances to date – 4.15 ERA, 45 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings – but he would appear to be far down in the Yankees’ pecking order. Aroldis Chapman, the fearsome left-hander, is the closer. The crew of middle relievers and set-up men includes Dellin Betances, David Robertson, Adam Warren, Tommy Kahnle, Chad Green and Chasen Shreve, the former Mississippi Braves lefty. Holder, a sixth-round pick by New York in 2014, established himself as a prospect in 2016, when he struck out 101 batters and walked just seven in 65 1/3 innings in the minors. The Gulfport native made his big league debut that season and made the opening day roster last year, though he spent most of 2017 in the minors. And the competition for bullpen jobs has only grown more fierce in the Bronx.
The shadows cast in the New York Yankees’ bullpen are considerable. There’s Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, Adam Warren — they get most of the high-leverage work. But Jonathan Holder, the Mississippi State product from Gulfport, has earned his seat in that bullpen. And he figures to get more pressurized opportunities as the season progresses for a team that looks like a playoff contender. Scouting reports rave about Holder’s swing-and-miss stuff. In his second big league tour, he has posted a 3.00 ERA in 11 appearances, including a scoreless ninth inning in Tuesday’s 11-5 win over Toronto. He has fanned 10 and walked one in nine innings, yielded no homers and been credited with two holds. He didn’t get a hold on April 28, when he did some of his most impressive work. When Holder came on in the seventh, the Yankees trailed Baltimore 11-4. Holder shut the O’s water off, retiring all five batters he faced. The Yankees rallied for a stunning 14-11 win in 10, with Clippard and Chapman also hanging up scoreless frames. Holder was a record-setting closer at State and was drafted in the sixth round in 2014 by New York, which converted him to starter in the minors for two years. He went back to the pen in 2016 and sailed through three levels – with a 1.65 ERA — to arrive with the Bronx Bombers on Sept. 2. He had mixed results (5.40 ERA) then, but he made the big club out of spring training and has continued to impress. P.S. Former Petal High star Anthony Alford made Baseball America’s All-Prospect team for April. The highly regarded Blue Jays farmhand, now playing in Double-A, hit .356 with two homers, eight RBIs, 12 runs and seven steals.
Jonathan Holder was almost perfect on Sunday. The right-hander out of Mississippi State, pitching for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, faced 13 batters and struck out 12 of them. He registered the save in a 3-1 win that clinched an International League playoff berth for SWB, a New York Yankees affiliate. Gulfport native Holder, a sixth-round pick by the Yankees in 2014, put up a 2.20 ERA at Double-A Trenton with 10 saves in 11 chances. He has been even better for SWB, going 6-for-6 in save opps with an 0.89 ERA, 35 strikeouts and no walks in 20 1/3 innings. Punchouts are not Holder’s forte, or so he says. “Getting swings and misses is a plus, but letting hitters get themselves out is my game plan,” he told milb.com. For the record, he has 225 K’s in 219 2/3 career innings. Holder is not on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, but he has positioned himself for a possible September call-up. P.S. Pittsburgh sent former State star Adam Frazier down to rookie-level Bristol on Sunday. Why Bristol? Because, according to mlb.com, Frazier can be recalled as soon as Bristol’s season ends, which is Thursday. The versatile Frazier is hitting .321 with a home run and seven RBIs in 39 games with Pittsburgh, which is still chasing a wild card in the National League.