The Pirates Prospects 2017 Prospect Guide is now available for pre-sales. The book will be released the week before Spring Training, and we are currently in the process of making the final changes with editing and formatting.

The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2017 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find. Subscribers to the site get discounted books, with Top Prospect subscribers getting $10 off, and Annual subscribers getting $5 off. The eBook will be released when the book is released, and will also come with discounts. Details on the promotions can be found on the products page, and you can subscribe to the site or upgrade your current plan on the subscriptions page.

While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks as a countdown to the start of Spring Training, and to give a preview of the release of the book. We will be wrapping up on Monday, February 13th. The reports will only be available to site subscribers, including those with a monthly plan. You can subscribe here, and if you like these reports, be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site to get much more analysis on every player in the system.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Alen Hanson, 2B

19. Luis Escobar, RHP

18. Edgar Santana, RHP

17. Elias Diaz, C

16. Max Kranick, RHP

15. Trevor Williams, RHP

14. Braeden Ogle, LHP

We continue the countdown with the number 13 prospect, Clay Holmes.

13. Clay Holmes, RHP

Holmes made his return from Tommy John in 2015, making nine rehab starts between the GCL and High-A before being shut down for the year. The Pirates didn’t protect him from the Rule 5 draft that offseason, but he went unselected, possibly due to the uncertainty with his health. After watching him make 26 starts in Altoona during the 2016 season, they didn’t take any chances, and added him to the 40-man roster to protect him from the 2016 Rule 5 draft.

The numbers from Holmes weren’t great on the surface, although that can partially be explained by the rehab process. His command wasn’t fully there early in the season, and started making some positive strides in the second half. He wasn’t consistent from start-to-start, with a few bad outings with control that threw off the numbers. He was much more effective in the second half and showed more consistent stuff, and was difficult to hit.

Holmes added a two-seam fastball this year, and showed promise with the pitch by the end of the year, using it as his primary fastball and getting high ground ball totals. The four-seamer sits 92-95, touching 96, while the two-seamer is 90-92. He also showed improvements with his changeup throughout the year, although he doesn’t use it often in games. At the end of the season, the Pirates added another pitch to his arsenal, giving Holmes a power slider/cutter that was coming in around 88-91 MPH. The pitch was aimed at getting a better breaking pitch. He will still have his low-to-mid 80s curveball, but the hope is that the new slider will be his best secondary pitch, complementing the two-seamer well. His stuff is difficult to hit, generating some of the softest contact in the system.

Holmes has a big frame and the stuff to be a number three or four starter in the majors. The big focus for him will be consistent command, which could come the further he gets from Tommy John.

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  1. I just made a list of who I predict the remaining 12 prospects to be, and other than Meadows, it doesn’t contain any OFs.

    I know we are pretty set at the big-league level at that position, and I’m still a fan of Barrett Barnes, but after parting with JaCoby, Ramirez, Polo and Garcia, it has now become an area where we are seemingly lacking in minor league depth.

    • I’d actually forgotten about Jones. It’s funny I was about to say OF is an easier position to fill in the majors because that’s where most of the talent is come draft time and it seems a fair amount of guys get thrown to RF or LF if they can hit (not necessarily field). That being said I live in Philadelphia and the Phillies haven’t grown a successful OF in…………I honestly can’t remember. Off the top of my head Victorino was Rule 5, Werth was a FA signing, Herrera was Rule 5, Ibanez was a FA. Brown was a bust. I’m sure I’m missing someone but maybe we’re just spoiled. Even when Cutch is gone Polanco has a high floor, Marte is a stud, Meadows has the ability to very good. But for a while there we were all wondering what to do with Ramirez, Polo, Broxton, Garcia etc. We no longer have this “problem” but to me, barring major injuries they’ll be fine in the OF for several years. It’s just the depth which was once overflowing, is now non-existent. Here’s to hoping Frazier or Hanson become serviceable 4th OF and Marte stops getting hit by pitches.

    • Worse comes to worse, Pirates can easily move Bell back to RF and live with the defensive shortcomings while waiting for an injury to heal, or Super 2 to pass for Meadows.

      Long term, answers aren’t so clear. Have to think Cutch will get traded for a high ceiling OF prospect at some point in time in the not too distant future.

        • Did you read the part of my statement that said DEFENSIVE SHORTCOMINGS?

          I was referencing OF depth in the event of an injury to a starting OF early this season.

          • It is difficult to understand how the Pirates have failed to develop this kid. A consensus plus power hitter from both sides of the plate when drafted has turned into a guy with below average power and defensive shortcomings. How does that happen?

            The Cubs draft guys with plus power and then improve their power in the minors, and seem to do so very quickly. Somebody needs to find out what the Cubs and other teams are doing to be so successful, and where we are not measuring up.

            • The Pirates seem to take a laissez-faire approach to power development, counting on it simply to show up with age, whereas the Cubs actively develop guys with loft.

              Rizzo, Russell, Soler, Castillo, and Baez all saw significant increases in fly ball rate, while Bryant and Schwarber clearly had fly ball swings from the start.

              Power, patience, with enough contact to keep opposing pitchers honest. They’ve developed the archetypal baseball hitter of these times.

  2. Going all-in on that soft-contact game by adding a cutter, it seems. Still like to see some improvements with the curve to have an actual swing-and-miss pitch.

    • Talk about an area of scouting ripe for analytic improvement. Funny how many of these eye-test soft contact minor leaguers disappear against Major League bats.

      Holmes didn’t have big league command before TJS, and I personally can’t think of a single Major League starter with a delivery as stiff and upright as his who does. He’ll probably end up throwing plenty of decent middle relief innings, though.

      • There’s a lot to work with, though. You don’t get soft contact on flat pitches even in the minors, so loosening up those mechanics and improving his command could be a huge boost to him. I agree, though, his floor is a decent middle reliever (maybe similar to Jared Hughes, but with a bigger mix of pitches), and he’s close enough to keep his risk down, so I have no qualms with the ranking overall, since that matters, too.

        But without a true whiff-pitch and/or improvements to command, I just don’t see how he harnesses his movement to turn into a viable starting option.

      • The teams have analytics now for the minor leaguers. If you go to Pirate City, you’ll see a trackman device above the screen behind home plate. It keeps track of spin, velocity, exit velocity, and I believe other things like speed down to first, and so on.

        The data isn’t publicly released though, but they do have the analytics for it.

        • I doubt we’ll ever see it publicly, but it’d be fascinating – if not impossible – to try and project major league batted ball authority for pitchers based on minor league data.

      • Is there someone in the majors who you would consider to be “stiff and upright” with their delivery? Having never seen Holmes pitch (even on YouTube) I’d be interested to see what that looks like.

  3. Tim … How concerning are his lack of strike outs? He has a career 6.43 K/inning rate.
    Will the soft contact and groundballs compensate for that?

    • As long as he’s able to limit his walks he should be alright, similarly to Kuhl. Strikeouts are great but throwing 6-7 pitches per batter all the time to get strikeouts in early innings limits the potential to go deep in games given that most starters barely reach 100 pitches an outing before being pulled anymore. Now if he can induce soft contact and increase his ability to get strikeouts when necessary that’s the best outcome as soft contact can turn into bloop singles or find a hole through the infield and potentially score a runner on second.

  4. Holmes could be a big help to the Pirates very shortly. His GO/AO for 2016 was 2.96 and he averaged 5 starts a month in AA where his ERA was 6.08 in Apr, 4.18 in May, 3.95 in Jun, 3.55 in Jul, 3.86 in Aug, and one start in Sep 3.18 ERA. He’s a big body at 6’5″ 230, and an innings eater. If he can trim that BB/9 down from 4+ to less than 3, he could be a fast tracker.

    Right now, his future will be determined by his own Command, and the ability of other higher reputed pitching prospects to stay in front of him. Whether with the Pirates or another ballclub, he has what it takes to make it into MLB.

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