Jonathan Holder is a solid relief prospect for the Yankees. The club’s sixth-round pick in 2014 has made a smooth transition back to the bullpen and is one of a number of interesting arms in the upper levels of the minors that could help New York’s big league bullpen before long.
On Sunday, Holder was better than that. Much better than that. He was about as good as a pitcher can be.
With Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre leading 3-1, Holder entered with two men on and no one out in the bottom of the sixth inning against Rochester. He then proceeded to earn a four-inning save with arguably the most dominant performance we’ll see in the minors this year.
Holder struck out the first 11 batters he faced, including four three-pitch strikeouts. He struck out 12 of the 13 batters he faced–the only batter to avoid the strikeout was John Ryan Murphy, who singled on an 0-2 pitch with two out in the ninth.
It was an amazing effort by Holder. It was great work by Scranton catcher Eddy Rodriguez but it was also an awful performance by the Red Wings hitters.
Normally a pitcher striking out 11 batters in a row would be relying on a top-of-the-scale lively fastball or a snapdragon slider. Holder’s fastball has plenty of oomph–92-95 mph–and his slow curve can lock up hitters. He picked up three of his strikeouts on taken strike threes where he dropped in his curveball.
But many of his strikeouts came on two-strike fastballs that were way out of the zone. That’s not a knock on Holder or Rodriguez. They realized quickly that Rochester’s hitters were chasing fastballs up, so they kept going to it. Rochester just never adjusted.
There was this fastball to Wilfredo Tovar for the first whiff.
And this John Ryan Murphy strikeout to end the sixth.
And this Kennys Vargas’ in the eighth.
And Adam Brett Walker’s in the eighth.
And Daniel Palka.
And Leonardo Reginatto in the ninth.
The lone hit Holder gave up should have been an out. On a two-strike pitch with two out in the ninth, Murphy hit a pop up that reached barely halfway to first base from home plate, but it fell untouched thanks to a miscommunication.
All that did was give Holder a chance for another strikeout. He did so by getting Byron Buxton to strike out for a fourth time, this time with a curveball that Buxton watched for strike three.
Rochester struck out 22 times for the game. Holder struck out the side in the eighth on only 10 pitches. He went beyond one ball to only three of the 13 hitters he faced.
It was a masterful performance by the former Mississippi State closer, who at some point will join his fellow 2013 Bulldog teammates Adam Frazier, Kendall Graveman, Chad Girodo and Jacob Lindgren as big leaguers. Hunter Renfroe and Brandon Woodruff from that team also should make the big leagues.
Holder now has 35 strikeouts and no walks in 20.1 innings since being promoted to Scranton. With a solid fastball he can locate, a big-breaking curve, a slider and a cutter, he’s a very useful relief prospect. But Sunday’s dominance should also remind the Rochester players to work on their pitch recognition.