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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 17 prospect, Clay Holmes.
17. Clay Holmes, RHP
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.