Holder In Complete Control

TAMPA, FL - Right-hander Jonathan Holder is in the midst of of his first full season not just as a professional but as a starting pitcher too and yet he's finding immediate success despite those facts. He's been in complete control on the mound since day one and he's making short work of high-A batters.

Last year's sixth round pick out of Mississippi State has had a lot of success in the beginning of the season, pitching to a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings over nine starts while holding runners to a .234 average. The 21-year old has credited being able to command all his pitches consistently for his successful first full season with the Tampa Yankees.

“My fastball command has been the biggest thing and establishing a fastball early,” Holder said. “Moving in and out of the zone, and setting hitters up for later in the game, it’s probably been the biggest adjustment I’ve made this season.”

To go with his consistency on the mound has been his consistency off the mound. Holder, a reliever in college, has firmly established a pre-game routine as a starter which he thinks prepares him to be successful every fifth day. The unpredictability of pitching out of the bullpen doesn’t allow relievers to create a game day routine since they’re unsure if they’ll be called on to pitch that day.

“I’ve never really had a starter’s routine before so I asked around for some advice from a few of the other pitchers who’ve been here before and I started to get down a routine I felt comfortable with,” he added. “I check out the scouting reports on the other hitters to try to get a feel for their strengths and weaknesses, then I try to form a game plan of how I want to attack them.”

According to his pitching coach, Tommy Phelps, there’s two immediate advantages that helped Jonathan Holder coming into this season; his maturity and the success he had pitching for Mississippi State in the difficult Southeastern Conference in college.

“What stood out to me was how mature he is at his age for a kid in this league in his first full season out of college,” Phelps said. “I think the fact that he pitched in the SEC is big and it is practically A-ball. His success there has carried him over very well into this league.”

Still, despite his collegiate experience, the fact is he has changed roles and done so while skipping over an entire minor league level so his immediate success while making those two adjustments has been pretty remarkable.

As a starter so far Holder is relying mostly on his fastball and curveball as they are far better offerings than his other pitches, but if he is going to advance further in the minors and continue his success then he will have to improve his secondary pitches. This will allow him to mix his pitches throughout the game and to keep the hitters off-balance. According to his manager, Dave Bialas, that’s where he sees the room for improvement the most.

“I think he needs to get his changeup working a little bit better for him and use it a little more often,” Bialas opined. “He’s not an overpowering type pitcher so he’s going to have to command the ball, work it down, up and in, [and] throw his breaking pitches when he’s behind in the count.

“He has a good delivery though. I think his delivery allows him to go out there and throw a number of pitches, you know sometimes up to a hundred pitches a night.”

So while the success in 2015 so far is quite evident, Holder still has areas to work on. Even with the need to work on his secondary pitches, however, Bialas has a great amount of confidence in Holder's ability to advance quickly through the system.

“I think Holder can pitch in Double-A right now, but if he continues to develop his other pitches and continues to show the command he has shown then it won’t be long before he’s in double-A," Bialas added.

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