Pittsburgh Pirates: Clay Holmes’ Performance Against the Yankees

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Analysis: The Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the New York Yankees yesterday.  However, they got some good pitching out of a couple of their young arms, including a lower rated prospect.

Clay Holmes came in to pitch after Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham against the Yankees on Sunday. Holmes pitched the fifth and sixth innings against a solid Yankee’s lineup that featured Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Gleyber Torres, and Brett Gardner.  He threw two successful innings without giving up a run.  He also compiled four strikeouts in those two innings.


Holmes was a ninth-round draft pick in 2011 out of a High School in Alabama.  He immediately impressed scouts with his size and power arm.  Because of these attributes, he received a sizable bonus of $1.2 million.  One of the highest bonuses ever for a ninth-round draft pick.  Holmes did not make his Pittsburgh Pirates debut until 2012, when he threw 59.1 innings, and posted an earned run average of 2.28. He did this in the New York Penn League, a short-season league.  This first season put Holmes on the prospect radar.


He then moved up to Low-A West Virginia and found the competition to be much better.  His results regressed some, as he pitched 119 innings and posted a 4.08.  Still, he was relatively young for the level and showed enough positives to earn him a top 20 prospect ranking entering the 2014 season.


Holmes was to start the 2014 season at High-A, and he most likely would have ended up in Double-A.  However, right before the start of the 2014 season, it was announced that two Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects needed Tommy John Surgery. Jameson Taillon was first to get the surgery.  Then, days later, it was announced that Clay Holmes also needed the procedure.  This was really poor timing for Holmes, as he looked to establish himself as an up and coming pitching prospect in the high-level minors.

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Post Tommy-John

Unlike Taillon, Holmes was able to return to game action in 2015.  He pitched between the Gulf Coast League and High-A, compiling a total of 36.1 innings.  The 2016 season was entirely spent at Double-A for Holmes.  Holmes had a very up and down season.  One game he would pitch very well and the next he would struggle with command, getting in trouble and exiting early.  However, the best thing was that he compiled 136 innings and showed no signs of injury issues.  This year it is likely the Holmes will head to Triple-A.

Performance Against the Yankees

Holmes showed very impressive stuff against the New York Yankees squad.  He came out throwing mostly fastballs in his two innings of work.  His fastball was consistently hitting 95 and 96 miles per hour, and reached as high as 97 on the gun.  At first, it seemed like the gun may have been ticked up a little.  However, after going back and looking, Kingham’s velocity was only 92-94 and Taillon was hitting 94-95 routinely, both velocities that these pitchers are accustomed to.  So it seems that Holmes’ velocity was accurate.

He also had a ton of left to right run and sink on his pitch.  This is mainly because of his delivery, which sees his arm come from a deceptive angle.  Combine that with his 6’6” frame, and the ball seemed to be really jumping up on hitters.  However, one could also see the command issues that Holmes had last season.  There was a specific at-bat where he threw three straight fastballs that tailed practically behind the right-handed batter.  Sometimes too much movement can be an issue if the pitcher does not have command of the pitch.

With that being said, Holmes looked very impressive for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  He mainly used his fastball, but also showed a decent breaking pitch and change-up.  The biggest positive from his start was the amount of fastballs he threw, and that he carried the velocity into his second inning.  With having Tommy-John Surgery, it is important to see how a pitcher’s arm reacts after sitting for some time.  Holmes showed no fatigue.

Next: A Look at Kingham's Recent Performance

Going Forward

Holmes also punched out four hitters and got two ground ball outs as well.  He is known as a ground ball pitcher.  Last season he had a 2.97 ground out to air out ratio.  If he can continue to learn command of his power sinker, and continue to develop his change-up and breaking ball, Holmes may have a chance to be a starter in the big leagues.  If not, he could be a very dominant relief pitcher.  Either way, there is a slight chance that he could crack the big leagues this season, however, he is likely behind a few other arms in Triple-A right now.