Pittsburgh Pirates 2020 Breakout Candidate: Clay Holmes

Pittsburgh Pirates’ right hander Clay Holmes showed some potential in 2019, and could be a key cog to future bullpen plans.

Clay Holmes didn’t have a great 2019 season for the Pittsburgh Pirates. His surface numbers show a 5.85 ERA, 4.97 FIP, and 1.62 WHIP. However, Holmes had some really good numbers under the hood, and has the stuff to breakout next season.

Holmes struck out tons of batters last season. In just 50 innings, the right hander struck out 56 batters. Plus, in an era when home runs are flying left and right, Holmes gave up just 5 to keep his HR/9 to just 0.9. Holmes 60.3% ground ball rate ranked 6th in the entire MLB. His hard hit rate was just 34%, 4% above average.

But two things bit Holmes last season. He gave up 36 walks and 42.5% of all the pitches he threw were outside of the strike zone. He also struggled with runners in scoring position. He may have given up only 2 home runs in 84 PA’s, but he gave up 12 walks to go with 18 total hits. So while his hit total wasn’t too high, they usually came with runners he put on base with walks.

But Holmes pitches shows he has a good amount of potential. Holmes’ best pitch is his sinker. Not only can he throw it upwards into the mid-90’s, it has very good movement. According to Baseball Savant, the pitch has 27.8 inches of vertical break, which is 6.8 inches above average, with 14 inches of horizontal movement, which is about average.

Holmes’ next best pitch is his curve. He can put both horizontal (9.9 inches of break, 1.1 inches above average) and vertical break (55.2 inches of break, 3.6 inches above average). His curveball was one of the pitches he was able to control, with a 3.2 BB%. That is opposed by a very good 52.4 K%.

His third best pitch is his slider. Batters swung and missed at this pitch a grand total of 70.4% of the time. That should be no surprise with it’s 37 inches of vertical movement, 3.7 inches above average. Although the 2.8 inches of horizontal movement is just below average. His slider was another one of his pitches he was able to control, with a 7.1 BB%.

Holmes needs to drop his 4-seamer. It was a straight line pitch, which he threw no faster than his sinker. He couldn’t control it either. Out of his 4 pitches, he walked 37.9% of the batters he faced with it.

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If Holmes drops this pitch, he could be a very devastating pitcher. His slider/sinker/curveball combo could be deadly with the movement each pitcher has. He can throw all 3 pitches for strikes, and keeps the ball on the ground. Next season, if Holmes can hunker down when it matters, you could see him in a late inning role by the end of 2020.

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