Pittsburgh Pirates: Top Five Prospects RHP

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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Pittsburgh Pirates Holmes
Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

#5 Clay Holmes

Clay Holmes defines the Pirates’ strategy under Neal Huntingon.  When he was drafted in 2011 in the 9th round, Holmes had a frame of six-foot-five and 200 pounds.  It is the big, projectable frame that Huntington and company loves to bring into the organization.  He was ranked the 140th best prospect in the 2009 draft.  The Pirates were able to grab him in the 9th round due to sign-ability concerns. The Pirates signed him to a bonus of 1.2 million dollars, a record for a 9th round player.

With his projectable frame he also had a fastball ranging from 90-93 miles per hour.  There it is the height, the frame, and the velocity. Holmes also throws a hard slider that is sharp but he struggles commanding at times. He also is developing a complimentary change-up. The Pirates have a project right-handed pitcher to mold.

So far in his career Holmes has been average.  His stuff has not translated to statistically, but with the stuff he has it is a matter of time till the numbers start to become impressive.   So far his minor league career has given him a career 3.59 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP.  The biggest thing that Holmes needs to improve on is his command.  So far he averages just 6.1 strikeouts per nine innings and 4.7 walkers per nine innings.  You would like to see those numbers get a little further apart.  As mentioned before, as Holmes throws more consistently and becomes more comfortable throwing a change-up and slider he will start to see his strikeout rate go up.

The biggest things that has held Holmes up in his development was when he received Tommy-John Surgery in Spring Training of 2014.  Holmes was coming off a solid second half of 2013 which included 59 innings with a 3.20 ERA.  It seemed that he was starting to put it all together and expectations were high for him at High-A.  As we all know Tommy-John can be a big time derailment for a prospect.  This is especially true for a young pitcher who is still developing his pitches and his style of pitching.  Jameson Taillon has rebounded well, yes, but where he was at compared to Holmes was a big gap.

Holmes returned last season and threw pretty well between the GCL and High-A.  In 9 games he threw a 2.48 ERA.  Seemed as if he was back and healthy.  With that the Pirates felt that it was time to move him up to AA for this season.  So far he has shown some growing pains.  In six starts he has an ERA of 5.72 with a WHIP of 1.66.  An even bigger concern is his walk to strikeout ratio which sits at an even 1.00.  What does that mean?  He has walked 16 guys and only struck out 16 as well.  One thing that has escalate his numbers is in two of his starts he has given up six earned runs in each. Taking those two starts out he has only given up six runs in the other four starts.  This could be a matter of getting used to throwing every fifth day again and once he gets comfortable we may not see him posting six run starts.

Why is he number five?  Many scouts are very high on Holmes, as well as Rum Bunter.  He has a great frame and a arm that hits 95 miles per hour on the gun.  As mentioned earlier, if he can learn to command his secondary pitches and add them to his good fastball, Holmes could be a nice middle of the rotation work horse.

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