Clay Holmes Is Becoming A Top Prospect Once Again

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

Right-handed pitcher Clay Holmes is once becoming one of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ top pitching prospects once again

There once was a time when Clay Holmes was one of the top pitching prospects in the Pirate system. In fact, the former 9th round draft pick entered the 2012 season ranked as one of the Pirates’ top 10 prospects.

The reason that Clay Holmes was viewed so highly is due to his great stuff. He possesses a fastball with natural sink and downward movement that sits in the mid-90s. He also throws a changeup and a curveball. His curveball is a power curve that flashes as a dominant out pitch at times, and his changeup continues to improve.

In what was a bit of a surprising move, the Pirates added Clay Holmes to the 40-man roster in November. He was added to the 40-man roster in order to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The surprising part, however, is that there were not very many people who thought a team would roll the dice on Holmes.

Putting Clay Holmes on the 40-man roster is proving to be a very smart move by Neal Huntington and the Pittsburgh Pirates. 2017 has seen Holmes get his first taste of Triple-A baseball, and Holmes has taken the International League by storm. As a result, he is pitching himself into being a top prospect once again.

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Due to needing Tommy John Surgery, Clay Holmes did not pitch at all in 2014. Then in 2015, he pitched just 36 1/3 innings between the Gulf Coast League Pirates and the High-A Bradenton Marauders. He would begin to bounce back with Double-A Altoona in 2016.

Clay Holmes pitched 136 1/3 innings at Double-A in 2016. He allowed 138 hits, just 10 home runs, and he hit 14 batters. While his 4.42 BB/9 was too high, he was able to help clean this up with an excellent 61.8 percent ground ball rate. He finished the season with a 4.22 ERA and a 4.55 FIP at Double-A.

So far in 2017, Holmes has taken a huge step forward. Thus far for the Indianapolis Indians, he has pitched in 11 games, 10 of which have been starts, and he has logged 50 innings. In these 50 innings, his sinking fastball has once again been lethal, as he has generated ground balls at a career best 63.2 percent rate.

Where Holmes has taken the biggest step this season is missing bats. In 50 innings pitched he has 54 strikeouts, giving him a career best 9.72 K/9. Prior to this season, he had a career strikeout rate of 6.44 K/9.

One issue that has plagued Clay Holmes this season has been his control. He is averaging 4.32 BB/9, he has hit 4 batters, and he has uncorked 6 wild pitches. These control issues will continue to hold Holmes back until he can correct them. However, his increased strikeout rate and excellent ground ball ability help him to overcome these problems.

So far this season he owns a 3.06 ERA, 3.12 FIP, and a 3.47 xFIP. Other than ERA, all of these numbers are career bests for Clay Holmes. The big reason for this is his increased ability to miss bats, generate swings and misses, and rack up the strikeouts.

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Clay Holmes is the healthiest he has been since 2012. As a result, he is having the best season of his minor league career. Also, with the combination of his ability to generate groundballs and strike batters out, he is pitching his way into being one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects once again.