2018 Pittsburgh Pirates Top 20 Prospects: Number 20 Overall

(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images) /

With February more than halfway over, it is time to rank the Top 20 prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.  Here is number 20.

Over the years, the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system was considered one of the best farm systems in baseball.  However, after enjoying a period of playoff baseball, and in turn picking lower in the draft, they have seen their system fall toward the middle of the pack.  Still, rankings by scouting websites are not everything.  They have plenty of intriguing prospects who could break out just as much as a team with a top farm system.  With that being said, we have come up with our top 20 prospects for the 2018 season.  The articles will look at each player, starting at 20 and working toward one.  So here is number 20 overall.

Number 20 Prospect: Right Handed Pitcher Clay Holmes

At one time, Clay Holmes was considered one of the upcoming pitching prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates system.  He had the size, stuff, and makeup of a classic power starter.  In his early years, he did not provide outstanding numbers, but scouts liked what they saw from him more than what his boxscore read.  Many expected him to have a breakout season after his 2013 year.  He posted a really impressive groundball rate in 2012 and 2013 at 57 percent, and was starting to fill out his 6’6” frame.

Enter Spring training 2014.  It was announced that Jameson Taillon would undergo Tommy John surgery.  Holmes immediately became the pitcher to watch in the minors that year right after Nick KinghamTyler Glasnow was still further down in the minors at that point.  However, Holmes’ 2014 season never came to be.  Not long after Taillon’s surgery announcement, it was announced that Holmes would also go under the knife to replace his UCL.  Not only were the two of the top pitching prospects in the organization taking a step back, but it was just about the worst possible moment for Holmes to miss a season.  As mentioned earlier, Holmes was showing progress and many expected him to really break out in 2014.  Instead, he would have to rehab for nearly a year and a half, and then have to try to get back to the point he was at before surgery.


After throwing 23 total innings in 2015, Holmes got his first full season in 2016.  He had a so-so year, but the big thing was that he was able to throw a full season.  He pitched 136.1 innings and posted a 4.22 ERA for the Altoona Curve.  While his ERA was a little high, he still was showing the ability to keep the ball on the ground.  He recorded a 61.8 percent groundball rate in 2016, which was the highest of his minor league career.  He followed his 2016 season with his best as a professional in 2017. Holmes pitched in Triple-A Indianapolis for the entire 2017 season.  He threw 112.2 innings for the Tribe posting a strong 3.36 ERA.  Furthermore, he put up another groundball percentage north of 60 percent at 61.5 percent.  Holmes also put up a career-high in K/9, punching out nearly 8 batters per nine innings pitched.

Next: Pirates Should Consider Dickerson

2018 Outlook

Holmes will likely start the year in Triple-A once again.  However, he very well could be the first or second call-up if a starter goes down, depending on if they prefer him or Nick Kingham.  Holmes is the type of pitcher that the Pittsburgh Pirates love.  He is big at 6’6” and 230 pounds and has a power sinker that sits 94-96 and can reach as high as 98.  The biggest question around Holmes is if he will strike out enough hitters to make it as a starter in the big leagues.  If not, there is no doubt that he will find a place in the bullpen as a power, groundball specialist.