Scouting Report: RHP, Jonathan Holder

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher Jonathan Holder in the sixth round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of Mississippi State University. Not only did he have to transition from college ball to the professional level but the former closer began immediately making the adjustment to the starting role as well.

[Photo by Robert Pimpsner]

Vital Statistics:
Name: Jonathan Holder
Position: Pitcher
DOB: June 9, 1993
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 235
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I thought it went really well," he said of his debut season. "I thought the adjustment from college to professional baseball was pretty easy and it went smoothly. The big change was me going from a closer to a starting role but I felt like after I did it five or six times it really clicked. I kind of settled in and had a pretty good year."

Dominant as a reliever in college to the tune of a career 1.59 ERA and better than six to one strikeout to walk ratio in a top conference like the SEC, Holder was quite solid in his debut season for the Staten Island Yankees, posting a 3.03 ERA and three to one strikeout ratio in the New York Penn League and doing so while transitioning to the starting rotation.

"I think the biggest adjustment for me was having a third pitch that matches my curveball and my fastball," he said. "In college I could really dominate with a curveball and a fastball at the end of the game and mix those two together, and then to go to pro ball where I'm a starter now and throwing more innings I'm needing to mix in a different pitch in and out of the zone. My pitch selection was probably the biggest adjustment I had to make."

Purely a two-pitch hurler as a closer for Mississippi State, Holder began incorporating both a new cutter and a changeup into his repertoire to help expand his arsenal in his new role.

"The cutter I learned in like 24 hours," he revealed. "It was a real simple pitch to learn but now to master it and throw it where you want it in certain counts is going to take a little while. I feel like I threw it a lot as Instructs and towards the end I started getting good swings and misses with it."

The changeup was a pitch he had thrown before but mostly in his high school days. It wasn't a pitch he threw all that often in college but, just like the cutter, it didn't take him long to start throwing the changeup with confidence in Staten Island this year.

"It was good. Everybody's always thrown one since they were a kid. I've always had a good feel for a changeup but I never needed it just coming in the ninth inning [in college games] and never really had time to throw it. I really just sharpened it back up and got it going again.

"With the pro balls versus the college balls it had more depth and sink to it, kind of like a slower two-seam [fastball] looking pitch. It looked pretty good and was about eight to ten miles per hour off of my fastball."

While the velocity itself isn't anything to write home about, sitting mostly in the 90-93 mph range, it is Holder's excellent command of his fastball that brings his entire game together.

"I've always been blessed to throw my fastball and have really good command over it," he said. "I like to paint the corners in and out, down and away, down and in, and also elevate my fastball and throw my 12 to 6 curveball off of it."

Always extremely confident in his fastball-curveball combination, Holder is starting to have nearly as much faith in throwing both his cutter and changeup lately, and that will be a critical developmental mantra for him as a starting pitcher going forward.

"I didn't really know what to think at first," he said of starting. "I'm a routine guy though so once I get in a routine I'm set. I found a routine I really liked, I got into it, and it really helped me to stay focused. I really enjoy it.

"Like I said earlier, the third pitch is going to be a real crucial key part to my game. Another thing would probably be velocity. After a long season last year it drained me out. I probably threw close to 100 innings all together and now my arm has its rest that it has never had before. I feel like my velo might be back up a little bit."

It is not uncommon for first-year college pitchers to see a velocity spike in their ensuing first full season the following year after they've had some time off to rest their arm and get used to pitching deep into a season for the first time, and Holder believes there could be some untapped power in his arm.

"I feel like that is. In college we'd only get three weeks out of the year to rest our arm and now I'm getting two months to let my arm rest up. I feel like it could be that way. Nobody can really know until you get out there and start throwing again [though]."

He has been very much like a sponge in his first year thus far, learning a lot of different things about himself and the game of baseball itself. In fact, he is very excited about the idea of how much better he can be going forward, especially if he can begin to master either the cutter or the changeup in coming seasons.

"Man I've picked up so much stuff from everybody that I've talked to that it's hard to pinpoint any one thing but the cutter is definitely one of the quickest things I've ever learned that impacted my game at the level it did.

"Yeah I really think that and getting deeper into ball games is something I'd want to accomplish [in 2015] because I was on a pitch limit this year and could only go three innings or four tops. I'd like to see what it's like to extend in a game.

"I am stoked about it. I'm ready to go," he concluded.











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Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Cutter, Changeup.

Fastball. He'll bump a few 89s and even some 94s as a starting pitcher, but Holder throws a straight four-seam fastball that averages 90-93 mph for the most part. What he lacks in plus velocity though he more than makes up with great command of his fastball; he can paint all four quadrants of the strike zone with his fastball. He has shown higher velocity in shorter one-inning relief stints before in college, hitting 95-96 mph, but he has yet to show that kind of velocity in a starting capacity.

Other Pitches. Holder's bread and butter is his plus curveball. A true 12 to 6 knee-buckler, he actually throws two different types of curveballs, one that will sit 71-73 mph and another that will average 76-77 mph. He has superb command of his curveballs too and has the confidence to throw them in any count and in any situation. He has incorporated both a cut-fastball in the 85-89 mph range that breaks about ten feet in front of the plate and a solid changeup with good fade and depth. Both area already big league average pitches with room to get better and he can also throw both of them for strikes consistently.

Pitching: Holder has a real go-get'em attitude on the mound. He attacks batters right from the jump with a series of strikes with an array of pitches, all of which are built to get him to the point where he can go to his knockout curveball to set them down. He despises the free pass more than most and forces batters to swing at his pitches and put the ball in play. He is also quite adept at pitching consistently in the lower-half of the strike zone too and that allows him to keep the ball in the yard better than most. New to starting, however, the only real glaring weakness in his game right now is his lack of experience holding runners on and fielding his position, two aspects of his game that should get better in time as he accumulates more innings and PFP [pitchers' fielding practice] time.

Projection. Holder enters the professional ranks a bit more polished than most given his plus command and is also a bit different than most college pitchers in that there is still some ceiling left to his game given the newness of both his cutter and changeup, two pitches that could, like his curveball already, begin to slide into the above average to plus range as he uses them more. A little Chase Whitley-like at similar points in their careers given the innate strike-throwing ability and possession of a plus big league offering, Holder projects best as a potential long-term middle reliever but also offers some tangible ceiling as a middle to back-end big league starting pitcher too should the other secondary pitches continue to develop.

ETA. 2017. Holder is another strong bet to potentially skip the low-A level in 2015 and begin the season in high-A Tampa. His command is that advanced. Even if he begins the season in low-A Charleston he shouldn't be there for too long; a potential Jaron Long track in 2015 is not out of the question.

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