Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Report: Clay Holmes

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ number 16 prospect coming into 2015 was pitcher Clay Holmes. Holmes was drafted in the 9th round in 2011 as a high schooler from Alabama.

In his first two seasons in the Pittsburgh organization, Holmes showed a decent amount of upside. In 2012, he posted a 2.28 ERA for State College and in the following season, he recorded a career high 6.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

The one thing that Holmes had struggled with early in his career was control. He walked 4.4 and 5.2 batters per nine innings in each of those first two seasons. However, after having Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss all of 2014 and a bit of 2015, Holmes came back and seemingly resolved those issues.

Upon returning to action in June, Holmes made 3 starts for the Pirates’ Gulf Coast League team and struck out 10 batters in 13.1 innings while posting a 2.02 ERA. He then made 6 starts at Single-A Bradenton, where he tallied a 2.74 ERA and allowed nearly two less hits per nine innings than he was in the Gulf Coast.

In total, Holmes made 9 starts with a 2.48 ERA in 2015. But more importantly, he struck out 26 batters compared to just 8 walks – a rate of 3.25 strikeouts per walk and nearly triple his career average. He also cut his walk rate by more than half from 2013 (5.5) to 2015 (2.0).

More from Rum Bunter

Obviously it’s a small sample size, but the instant improvement is something to be excited about. Many pitchers have improved in their second season back from Tommy John; I don’t know if you consider this his second season back but after a full offseason to get back in shape, it is likely Holmes will see that improvement in 2016.

He has a good fastball with natural sinking movement, but his other two pitches – changeup and curveball – still need work before he reaches Pittsburgh. Due to the surgery, the Pirates should be in no rush to get this guy to the majors with the plethora of young arms ahead of him. Holmes should see the majority of his time at Double-A Altoona this season where he can master the control of his breaking pitches and build his arm strength back up.