Top Performers: Clay Holmes Showing Why He’s a Top Prospect

Below are the pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the last week. The top ten and the bottom five starts are broken down below the chart. The top five short season pitchers are also highlighted in a separate group, since most of those guys only go 4-5 innings max, and don’t have a good chance of being highlighted in the top ten. The rankings include every pitcher who made a start for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

The Top Ten

Clay Holmes has been dominating in the last month.
Clay Holmes has been dominating in the last month.

Clay Holmes was struggling early in the season for West Virginia. In the first two months of the season he had a 5.60 ERA in 45 innings, with a 31:32 K/BB ratio. He saw some improvements in June, with a 3.90 ERA in 27.2 innings, but the walk rate was still poor, with a 17:17 K/BB ratio. In his last seven starts he has walked more than three batters just once, and has walked more than two batters twice. In that stretch of arbitrary end points he had a 2.75 ERA in 36 innings, with a 32:16 K/BB ratio. This is almost like the progression that Nick Kingham took last year with West Virginia. Kingham struggled early in the season, turned things around in June, and was quietly putting up dominant numbers in July and August. Holmes continued his hot streak with six shutout innings this past week, giving up two hits and four walks, while striking out five. That was good enough to tie for the top game score of the week.

Eliecer Navarro tied Holmes this week by giving up one earned run on five hits and three walks in seven innings, with nine strikeouts. Navarro got off to a rough start in Altoona, but had a good month of July with a 3.33 ERA in 27 innings. He hasn’t been dominant, with just ten strikeouts in that entire month. He almost matched that total with this first start in August.

Kris Johnson has been our Pitcher of the Month for the last two months, and got off to a great start in August as he tries to make it three in a row. Johnson threw seven shutout innings, giving up five hits and two walks, with three strikeouts. He fell just shy of Holmes and Navarro, finishing with the third best score.

Isaac Sanchez has shown some promise in the Jamestown rotation this year. The right-hander impressed this past week by giving up just one unearned run in five innings, with two walks, two hits, and eight strikeouts. Sanchez finished the month of July with a 3.50 ERA in 18 innings, along with a 20:8 K/BB ratio.

Casey Sadler had the fifth best score this week in his second start since his return from a knee injury. Sadler threw six shutout innings, giving up three hits and one walk, while striking out two.

Adrian Sampson has been inconsistent lately, showing his potential with some great starts, but throwing in a horrible start every 2-3 outings to bring down his overall numbers. This week he had another one of the gems, giving up one run on six hits in seven innings, with no walks and four strikeouts. Sampson has had some impressive control this year, with a 70:16 K/BB ratio in 112.1 innings.

Jason Creasy has been excellent in the West Virginia rotation in the second half. He gave up one earned run in six innings this week, with six strikeouts and one walk. As a starter this year he has a 2.95 ERA in 42.2 innings, with a 35:15 K/BB ratio.

Graham Godfrey continues to fill in well for Indianapolis. He threw six shutout innings this week, giving up a walk and four hits.

Cody Dickson, the fourth round pick in this year’s draft, has been lights out. He threw five shutout innings, giving up three hits and one walk, while striking out four. In his last three starts he has combined for 14 shutout innings, with five hits, three walks, and 12 strikeouts. On the season he has a 2.54 ERA in 28.1 innings, with a 32:12 K/BB ratio.

Tyler Glasnow rounded off the top ten with an unusual line. Glasnow gave up two runs, one earned, on one hit and two walks in five innings, with six strikeouts. He continues to put up dominant strikeout totals, with 128 in 92.1 innings. He’s also cutting down on the walks, with three walks or fewer in 13 of his last 14 starts, and two walks or fewer in 10 of those 14 starts.

Short-Season Top Five

Isaac Sanchez and Cody Dickson were in the top ten.

Wei-Chung Wang got back on the short-season top five list this week by throwing four perfect innings. Wang struck out one, and didn’t allow any walks, showing off his excellent control. He had another start later in the week where he threw three shutout innings. In total he threw seven shutout innings, giving up four hits, one walk, and striking out three.

Henry Hirsch pitched in a piggyback situation, throwing three perfect innings with four strikeouts. Hirsch was a 22nd round pick this year, and has gone 2-3 innings in his last three outings.

Shane Carle piggybacked with Cody Dickson, throwing four innings without an earned run. Carle gave up one unearned run on two hits, with no walks and four strikeouts.

The Bottom Five

Chad Kuhl entered his start this week with two earned runs in 22 innings of work. He gave up six earned runs on nine hits in 3.1 innings for the worst score in the system this week.

Pat Ludwig gave up six earned runs in three innings of work for the second worst score. Ludwig has recently moved into the Bradenton rotation, and has struggled in his last two starts after putting up good results the first three outings.

Ethan Hollingsworth made his first start for Indianapolis, giving up five earned runs on ten hits in five innings. He was only helping to fill out the Triple-A pitching staff, and was sent back to Altoona after Jameson Taillon was promoted.

Jackson Lodge got off to a great start this year in Jamestown, but has struggled lately. This week he gave up four earned runs on six hits in three innings for the fourth worst score.

Robby Rowland has put up some poor numbers this year, but also has a fluky weather situation going on. He has had ten games postponed or cancelled due to rain, pushing his start back a day or two at a time. He has also had four games delayed due to rain, but not postponed. You have to wonder if that is throwing off his routine and leading to the down year. He had the fifth worst start this past week, giving up five earned runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings. It came after a rain delay.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Somewhat off the subject but is there a chance Joely Rodriguez elevated himself into this discussion of guys just after Taillon, Glasnow and Kingham?


I don’t know how many times you have seen Kingham and Taillon,I have seen them both 4 or 5 starts,and I am afraid I would have to disagree with you ” Based on what I’ve seen his breaking ball is better than those of Taillon….” ) And I saw Pimental starts in Altoona before he was promoted,and when he showed command,he was difficult,but he was pretty inconsistent. One hitter outstanding, the next he might not even be in the zone.

Kevin Anstrom
Kevin Anstrom

IMO Kingham’s stuff is as good as anyone’s in the system. Based on what I’ve seen his breaking ball is better than those of Taillon, Glasnow, and Holmes. Also Stolmy’s stuff is top shelf.

I think it’s hard to judge ceilings. Just a few years ago no one would have said Matt Harvey was a potential #1 starter. Same goes for Max Scherzer.



In your opinion who has the higher ceiling, Kingham or Holmes?

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