Off to a hot start, the New York Yankees are starting to see the far-reaching value Matt Holliday brings to the organization.
When the New York Yankees first signed 37-year-old Matt Holliday to a one-year, $13 million contract on December 7, 2016, the reactions were quite mixed.
Some loved the pop and veteran presence that comes with the signing while others figured Tyler Austin or another Baby Bomber could have filled the void. Whichever side you were on, the former batting champion will bring much-needed improvement to the designated hitter position.
In 2016, he slashed .246/.322/.461 in 110 games for the St. Louis Cardinals this past season while also hitting 20 doubles, 20 home runs, 62 RBI’s and his average exit velocity, according to MLB.com’s Stat Cast, sat at 95.26 — the fourth highest in major league baseball. Those numbers were also put up during a year in which the righty dealt a fractured right thumb that needed surgery.
Holliday’s .897 on-base plus slugging percentage ranks ninth among active players and he has hit at least 20 home runs in 10 of the last 11 seasons, which justifies why the Yankees went after his services in the first place. Down in Tampa, where he is prepping for a season in which he will serve as the regular DH, he is certainly showing the organization and its fans why he was the logical choice.
Through nine games of Grapefruit League action, Holliday owns a .409/.458/.818 slash line with two home runs and 18 total bases while maintaining an OPS of 1.277. He has scored a run in all but three games this spring and in Saturday’s 7-1 win over the Detroit Tigers, the 13-year veteran went 1-for-3 with a three-run home run off Edward Mujica in the bottom of the fifth.
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While it’s just spring training and the 37-year-old could pull a hammy tomorrow, Holliday is not only growing on fans, but he’s providing hope that the Yankees, who experienced dismal production from the designated hitter’s position a year ago, will encounter a positive change of direction as the calendar flips to a new year.
Last season, New York’s DH’s finished second-to-last in Wins Above Average (-1.5) and hit just 28 home runs while in 2015, they recorded the third-highest Wins Above Average and hit 35 home runs. The position generated a .450 slugging percentage while Holliday, who experienced a “down year,” surpassed the total it by 11 points.
It’s not just the bat that is already tabbing this signing as the bargain of the offseason, as Holliday, one of baseball’s greatest clubhouse presences, is already building relationships with the highly touted prospects looking to build careers (hopefully) very similar to his.
Holliday has been close with Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Tyler Austin and others during camp showing them the way of life in the majors. From mechanics, getting through the grueling 162-game schedule to how to conduct yourself off the field, Holliday has been there.
“You build relationships with people, and out of that they’re more comfortable in coming to you and you’re more comfortable in offering something,” Holliday told Randy Miller of NJ Advance Media for NJ.com. “I’m excited to get to know these guys, really get to know them. Build relationships with them, hang out with them … and then I want to be available for what any young guys need.”
Almost three weeks into spring training and 23 days away from Opening Day, Holliday has been everything the Yankees could possibly want out of a veteran. The production and leadership of a former batting champion will do wonders for a team in year two of a rebuild craving nothing but positive growth while trying to make a run for the postseason.