Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #17 – Clay Holmes

The Pirates Prospects 2015 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2015 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Luis Heredia, RHP
19. JaCoby Jones, SS
18. Willy Garcia, OF

We continue the countdown with the number 17 prospect, Clay Holmes.

17. Clay Holmes, RHP

Clay Holmes missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery.
Clay Holmes missed the entire year due to Tommy John surgery.

The Pirates had a good track record with keeping their pitchers healthy prior to the 2014 season, but saw two of their top pitching prospects go down with Tommy John surgery in Spring Training. Holmes was one of those prospects, undergoing surgery a few weeks before Jameson Taillon had the procedure. The 2014 season would have seen Holmes move up to Bradenton, but instead he spent the entire season rehabbing.

Holmes should return for the start of the 2015 season, and will make that jump to High-A. His 2013 season in West Virginia didn’t look great on the surface, although he improved as the season went on, and finished strong, while greatly reducing his walk rate in the second half. That’s a common trend for a lot of pitchers who have gone through West Virginia the last few years, and the hope for Holmes was that he could carry the success over to High-A, much like Nick Kingham did in 2013 after improving in West Virginia in the second half of the 2012 season.

Holmes has a good mixture of size and stuff, with a tall, sturdy frame that could one day allow him to pitch 200 innings per year, along with the stuff that could make him a solid number three starter. He features a fastball that sits 90-93 MPH, and was hitting 94-95 in 2013. He’s had issues holding his velocity deep into starts, but did a better job of that before his injury. The fastball is paired with a sharp curveball in the upper 70s, and a changeup in the mid-80s. The curveball lacks consistency, but is an out pitch when it is on, and also helps lead to an above-average ground ball rate. The changeup should be a focus when he finally reaches Bradenton, as that seems to be the level where the Pirates really focus on improving that offering.

The jump to Bradenton should finally happen in 2015, although since Holmes is coming off Tommy John surgery, the Pirates might be more conservative with his progression and keep him in High-A all season. A lot of that will depend on the progression he makes at the start of the 2015 season, both with his fastball control, and improving his changeup.

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  • Never have been a big fan of Holmes. Always believed in Kingham though, which strikes myself as odd seeing as how they are seen as “similar” pitchers. Meh, if we were to trade Holmes this year if he re-establishes himself in Bradenton for a rental, I wouldn’t be upset.

  • Holmes is good physical specimen at 6.5-230, but his results in the Sally league were not that great other than strikeouts.
    He is not ranked high on any prospect board that I have seen

    He only pitched 178 innings of pro ball
    In the Sally league he
    pitched 119 innings had a WHIP of 1.471 walk rate of 5.21/9, walked
    total of 69/119 also hit 12 also gave up 59 runs in 119 innings, but did
    manage to strike out 90 batters.

    • I saw him three times last year and while I liked what I saw the first time, he got better each time I saw him. When the Pirates have kids concentrate on fastball command, it can give misleading results. If you’re an opposing hitter and you know a fastball is coming, you have a better chance to hit it. I’ve seen numerous outings where a Pirates pitcher in low-A won’t throw a breaking ball until his second time through the lineup and I’ve logged many innings in which every pitch was a fastball. Other teams catch on to that and sometimes the results don’t match the stuff and the Pirates honestly don’t care. If throwing 90% fastballs early in their career makes them a better pitcher, then the results on paper are meaningless compared to the end results.

      • Thanks for the reply, I was looking at the writeup and the line about the good mixture of size and stuff and translating that into him using his stuff, I was not aware that he was primarily throwing fastballs. I don’t want it to sound like I think he is not going to be a good pitcher, he has all the tools.

  • Really enjoying this work. More than just a blurb, but also not an encyclopedia.

    About those second half improvements…I think it should be noted that Kingham eventually regressed back to BB rates well over 8% in AA and only showed marginal improvement in AAA.

    You definitely like to see improvements from guys like Holmes, and I’m certain the same thing will be written about Glasnow when #1 comes around, but I’m not sure you can actually call it a change in skill level until it’s repeated.

    Looking forward to see Holmes work his way back, for sure.

    • Lee Foo Young
      January 8, 2015 1:02 pm

      NMR…when are you going to ‘give up the grey ghost’??😊😊😊

    • Lee Foo Young
      January 8, 2015 1:06 pm

      also…if you enjoy ‘this work’ buy the book. 😙😙😙

    • Lee Foo Young
      January 8, 2015 1:06 pm

      also…if you enjoy ‘this work’ buy the book. 😙😙😙

      • You know what, you’re absolutely right. Never bought a prospect guide of any sort, but this is well worth $18.

        I’m an idiot and don’t have the patience to figure out how to get my National Record Mart avatar to show up.

        • Lee Foo Rug Bug
          January 8, 2015 1:37 pm

          Click on your grey ghost. Then click on Settings (upper right hand corner – the gear). Click profile, Avatar, then upload a pic.

          Pretty simple really. I use Law for when I am on the IPad and Veale for when I am on the computer.

  • Lee Foo Young
    January 8, 2015 1:00 pm

    After seeing what just happened to Manuel Banuelos (traded for a RP), I will worry about Holmes and JT UNTIL they prove they come all the way back from TJ. Banuelos was NY’s top rated pitcher just before he went down.

    Approx 9 out of 10 come back just fine, but there is always that 10-15% who don’t.

  • John or Tim – would Borden have cracked the top 20 if he was still a Buc?

    • Yes, I believe he was somewhere in the top 20, around 16 I believe. I saw him pitch and we got strong reports on him despite the Kiley McDaniel comment above. He was dominating at times and if he did eventually switch to relief, he can get it up to mid-90’s. You have to remember that he was working on fastball command with WV, yet still held batters to a .220 average while averaging just under a strikeout per inning. He also got much better as the year moved along and they let him throw all his pitches, so it wouldn’t have surprised me to see him split 2015 between Bradenton and Altoona.

      • So do you think they overpaid then for Rodriquez or do you think the Bordens of the world (hard throwing RHP, possibly relievers) are pretty common and easy to replace?

        • Yes. I think Rodriguez is no better than a random player you could have signed for the same salary or less. Defensively he isn’t that good, so it doesn’t matter if he can play multiple positions to me if he is worse than the guy you normally put out there. He refuses to get on base and basically swings for the fences, but doesn’t have great power and he isn’t fast. I wouldn’t give up anything of value for a player like that.

          • Thanks. That was my gut reaction. And again, I’ve never seen Borden pitch and he’s more or less a lottery ticket seeing as how he didn’t pitch past Low A. But I guess I wasn’t sold on what I read about Rodriguez after the trade and that he was a utility player and nothing more. At least Ike Davis, while he flopped, was worth a shot as a starter and so giving up Blake Taylor you could definitely argue.
            At the end of the day I just hope the Pirates didn’t panic because of what they got out of Morel, Martinez and Nix last year. The scouts must’ve thought Borden profiled as a reliever and nothing more.

      • Not sure how much can really be said about a 22 yo college senior dominating low-A.

        • As I said, it was how he did it. Most teams don’t have their pitchers set themselves up for failure to help them get better, but the Pirates don’t care. Throw fastball, fastball, fastball and when they load the bases, have the confidence to throw that fastball they are sitting on. They care more about the end results than the results on paper. Borden dominated by loading up on fastballs when the other team knew fastballs were coming and then once the Pirates loosened the reins and let him throw breaking balls, he pitched even better to finish out the year. He also has the ability to hit mid-90’s, but you never saw that during the season.

  • He will be 22 years old at the start of the season, IMO, that is a little old to still be at WV even though he missed a year.

    • I hate to steal any thunder from Holmes here but since Borden probably would’ve been in the 15-17 range, was anyone else a little surprised they dealt Borden for Rodriquez? I trust the Bucs scouting so maybe they thought Borden had bullpen written all over him. Just wondered if anyone else had an opinion.

      • Borden should not have been in the top 30, he is a marginal relief prospect at best. Look at the write up by Kiley McDaniel of TB’s system, he isn’t even listed within their top 30 or “others” section. In reply to where Borden would rank –

        “Not really. There’s 4-6 relievers at the upper levels that I didn’t
        list on the others list (recently-acquired Mark Sappington probably the
        best of that group), but are the standard 60ish fastball (92-94) with
        50ish breaking ball and below average command. Borden is behind those
        guys right now. His stuff is kinda like Greg Harris but without the
        projection or command, so he likely moves to relief and slots around
        Sappington and co.”

        • So his stuff was just average and his results were there because he was 22 in Low A? I never saw him pitch but was impressed by his lines.

          • That is the consensus out there at least, he was really drafted as a reliever anyway. I looked at his numbers alot last year, but no one was giving him any chance despite his A ball success except for here.

            • j: I thought BB had a good year at Lo A except for the fact that he did that in his age 22 season, meaning 23 at Hi A, 24 at AA, and 25 at AAA if all goes well as he moves up in competition. Holmes went through Lo A as a 20 year old and made 25 Starts. He lost a year to TJ but will still be in Hi A a full year younger than BB if he would have stayed. I think getting Mitch Keller, Trey Supak, Gage Hinsz, and Tyler Eppler in the draft and guys like Adrian Sampson, Casey Sadler, and Chad Kuhl having very good years entered into the decision mix as well.

              • Emj, talk to any scout and they will tell you that they never look at the actual numbers, they are too deceptive when it comes to evaluating a guy’s chances of MLB.

                • Lee Foo Rug Bug
                  January 8, 2015 1:39 pm

                  Just think Rudy Owens?

                  • Bug: Rudy was outrighted from the ‘stro’s and signed a minor league deal with the Oakland Athletics. I thought he did very well rehabbing this year for Houston, but obviously not as well as expected.

                • j: And especially so in the Lower levels of the Pirates Minor league org.

        • Lee Foo Young
          January 8, 2015 1:01 pm

          But Buddy had a great name….just for that alone we shouldn’t have traded him.😄😄😄😄😄

          • LFY: Never heard the name that I did not think of “Buddy Bolden” as narrated and played by the Wynton Marsalis Septet “Live at the Village Vanguard” Collection.

    • leadoff, he said he would start in Bradenton, high A