Pittsburgh Pirates 2013 Top Prospects: #11 – Clay Holmes

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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Jin-De Jhang, C

19. Andrew Oliver, LHP

18. Vic Black, RHP

17. Adrian Sampson, RHP

16. Wyatt Mathisen, C

15. Bryan Morris, RHP

14. Justin Wilson, LHP

13. Tony Sanchez, C

12. Dilson Herrera, 2B

We continue the countdown with the number 11 prospect, Clay Holmes.

Clay Holmes
Clay Holmes

11. Clay Holmes, RHP

The Pirates gave Holmes a $1.2 M bonus as a 9th round pick in 2011, which was tied for the fourth biggest bonus in team history outside of the first round. He signed too late to pitch in 2011, and went to State College to start his career in 2012.

The right-hander entered the 2012 season already throwing 90-93 MPH and a hard curveball which acts like a slurve. The curveball acts like a plus pitch when he throws it with sharp bite. He needs to work on keeping the pitch consistently in the strike zone. There’s room for more velocity with his fastball due to his tall, projectable frame. Holmes could end up settling in the mid-90s.

Two issues heading into the 2012 season were command and the lack of a changeup. Holmes made some big strides in both areas during extended Spring Training, locking down his spot in State College. He got a feel for the changeup, with the potential for the pitch to turn into an above-average offering. That would give Holmes the potential for three pitches that are above-average or plus.

Control was still an issue in State College, and something the right-hander will need to work on in 2013. Some of the control problems had to do with Holmes not trusting his stuff. At times he would aim, rather than pitch, which made him look like a pitcher with a lot to work on. Other times he focused on throwing the fastball inside, while trusting his changeup to break away from left-handers. It was during those times that he showed a lot of promise.

Looking at the overall numbers, Holmes didn’t struggle much, even with the command issues. His numbers are impressive when you consider that he was pitching in a league filled with college hitters. The right-hander will have to work on his changeup and command in 2013. He should move to full season ball in West Virginia, which has been a difficult jump for prep pitchers in the Pirates system.

Holmes has the frame to eventually handle 200 innings a year in the majors. He’s got a smooth, clean delivery, which combined with his tall and lean frame should give him the chance to add velocity going forward. He has the makings of a good three pitch mix, with the potential for a plus fastball, plus curveball, and above-average changeup. He could have a shot at being a top of the rotation guy if everything goes as planned, but a more conservative projection has him ending up a solid number three innings eating starter in the majors.

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  • So, the guy over at Dr. Strangeglove rates Holmes at #26, and spends an entire paragraph on his “absurd” “comical” “cartwheel-esque” “too short stride” “loss of force” “arm doing all the work” mechanics and delivery, ending with:

    “If Holmes avoids serious injuries to both his shoulder and elbow with this delivery, I will be very surprised. It is hard for me to take him too seriously as a prospect unless his mechanics are overhauled.”

    Your conclusion was that “he’s got a smooth, clean delivery.”

    You sure you guys are looking at the same pitcher?

    • I’ve seen Holmes a few times, and had pictures from each time. The “smooth, clean delivery” observation came from my notes from instructs last year.

      I reviewed the pictures and the notes from each of his starts. There was definitely a difference in his stride between instructs and one of his starts in early July. His stride was shorter in July. However, he looked more “cartwheel-esque” in the instructs photo, when he had a longer stride.

      Also, the first outing when I saw him during Spring Training he had a smooth, low effort delivery.

      It might be a situation where it depends on when you saw him. I know that in reviewing John Eshleman’s reports from State College he had some inconsistent outings. In one outing he struggled with command, and in the other he looked great. Based on some of the reviews I’ve read in the last week, and reviewing the photos today, it seems that his delivery and stride has changed since Spring Training.

  • When I saw him pitch last summer, the few changeups he threw looked like they were cutting, probably due to his arm angle. I’m not sure if this is good, bad, or indifferent, but it might make his change a more effective pitch against righties than lefties.

    When I saw his mechanics, smooth and clean weren’t exactly the words that came to mind. I will say, however, that because of his short stride and high arm angle, there’s a ton of tilt on his fastball, making it very difficult to square up. I fastball that is that “downhill” is a huge asset to have.