Morning Report: Clay Holmes Loses His Prospect Tag

On Tuesday night, Clay Holmes pitched two shutout innings in a win over the Chicago Cubs. That gave him 52 innings in the majors, with the first out he recorded that night pushing him over the 50 inning maximum we use for our prospect cutoff. Just by getting in the game that night, he put himself just two appearances away from surpassing the 30 games for pitchers maximum that we also use. So either way, he was about to lose his prospect tag, thereby eliminating him from our mid-season update which will be out in the near future.

Holmes was a ninth round draft pick in 2011, though he only got that far in the draft because of bonus demands. That was before the new bonus cap rules and the Pirates were able to sign him for $1.2M without drafting six college seniors in the top ten rounds to create bonus pool space for him.

In our 2012 Prospect Guide, we ranked Holmes as the 23rd best prospect. That was partially due to the system looking stronger back then, but also the fact that he was a high school player who signed too late to play that year. All we had were his pre-draft scouting reports to go on, as well as one brief look in person during the Fall Instructional League.

Holmes went to State College in 2012 for his debut and put up a strong 2.28 ERA in 13 starts, despite a somewhat high walk rate and a low strikeout rate. He basically got the same push that Braxton Ashcraft and Michael Burrows got this year, except they got a chance to pitch in the GCL last year and Bristol wasn’t an option for Holmes back then. After the season, Holmes moved up to #11 in the system.

In 2013, Holmes was at West Virginia, where he had a solid overall season as one of the youngest pitchers in the league. I saw him three times and he looked better each time. I talked to a scout who saw him the first and third time and he also noticed a huge difference. Holmes dropped down to 12th in the system in our 2014 guide, though that was more due to the strength of the system at that time. His stock was actually on the rise at that point, but the combination of new players and progress made by others moved him down a spot.

That was followed by Tommy John surgery, which cost him the entire 2014 season. Due to the timing of the surgery, he didn’t return until the following June. His results during his return were strong, but also very limited. We knocked him down to #17 in the system in our 2015 guide due to the uncertainty of his return, then followed up with ranking him 19th in the 2016 guide. The second one speaks more to the strength of the system again, rather than a drop on his part.

In 2016, Holmes was in the Altoona starting rotation without any limits. I saw a lot of his starts that season and wrote about him here often. His stats were a bit deceiving with a 4.22 ERA and a .278 BAA. He gave up a ton of soft hits that year. The one inning that stood out the most and described his season the best was when he walked one batter in an inning and then gave up two runs without the ball getting out of the infield. There were no errors behind him and no wild pitches or passed balls. He was a ground ball machine that year, but in this particular instance, the grounders were being hit too soft, leading to infield hits and two double play attempts resulted in one out each time. It was the unluckiest inning you’ll see from a pitcher.

We moved him up to #13 in the system at the end of the year based more on the scouting than the results. Holmes moved to Indianapolis in 2017 and put up a 3.36 ERA and a .238 BAA, posting a 2.80 GO/AO ratio, along with a higher strikeout rate than in 2016. Yet he didn’t get called up to the majors. Holmes remained #13 in our system going into 2018.

The 2018 season was a very strange one for Holmes. He bounced between starting and relieving, the minors and the majors, with a trip once to Bradenton to keep him on schedule for a Major League start. It was an odd way to handle someone with no big league experience, and who was actually a prospect. It was what teams do with some journeyman AAAA-type player who can fill any role. The results were poor in the majors, but it got him some good experience.

This year has been a different experience for him. I personally would have left him as rotation depth going into 2019, where he would have received plenty of work this season, but at least they left him in the bullpen role this entire time.

Anyone who followed our Prospect Watch noticed that Holmes wasn’t taken off of our list until he actually lost that prospect tag. Part of that is the pain of changing the list once it is set up. The other was the uncertainty of the Pirates keeping him in the majors, partially due to early results, but also due to how they misused him last year. He was ranked 17th in the system going into Tuesday night, which is the exact middle point of his highest and lowest placements on our prospect list.

As a middle reliever with upside, who can go multiple innings, that’s about where he belonged in the system once you factor in that the risk of him reaching that point was completely gone because he’s there already. His floor back when he started was missing the majors, which is the same for every high school pitcher ever drafted. His upside at the peak was a workhorse starter in the system, who was held back from being a top of the rotation possibility due to his control. He got some chances to start last year, and he could very well make some starts in the future, but it appears that he is one of those players who split the difference between his floor and ceiling.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pittsburgh Pirates lost 11-3 to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. The Pirates will now host the Milwaukee Brewers for three games before heading to the All-Star break. Steven Brault will get the start tonight, his second in a row against the Brewers. Five days ago, he gave up one run over 4.2 innings. Brault posted a 2.42 ERA in five starts last month. The Brewers will counter with 26-year-old right-hander Zach Davies, who has a 3.24 ERA in 91.2 innings, with 59 strikeouts and a 1.40 WHIP. His last start came against Brault and the Pirates. Davies allowed one run over 5.1 innings. He posted a 5.40 ERA in six starts last month.

The minor league schedule includes a doubleheader for Indianapolis. The GCL Pirates also have a doubleheader today. Indianapolis will send out Eduardo Vera and James Marvel, who will be making his Triple-A debut. After struggling badly in May with a 7.90 ERA, Vera was able to lower that to a 4.42 mark in six June starts. Marvel threw 7+ innings in each of his last four starts in Altoona, giving up a total of six runs in those outings. Brandon Waddell gets the start for the Curve, his fourth since being sent down from the Indianapolis bullpen. He gave up one run over five innings in his last start, and he has struck out 51 batters in 43 innings this year.

Brad Case gets the start for Bradenton. After leaving the South Atlantic League with a league-leading 0.77 WHIP, Case has a 3.38 ERA in four starts with Bradenton. Greensboro will send out Luis Nova for his sixth start. He has combined for three runs over 19 innings in his three best starts, while allowing eight runs over 6.1 innings in the other two outings. Morgantown goes to fifth round pick Grant Ford for his second start. He gave up one run over three innings in his last game and should get stretched out further in this outing. Adrian Florencio will make his third start for Bristol. After giving up five runs in his debut, he allowed two runs over five innings in his second start.

MLB: Pittsburgh (42-44) vs Brewers (46-42) 7:05 PM
Probable starter: Steven Brault (4.29 ERA, 49:30 SO/BB, 56.2 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (42-42) vs Toledo (38-47) 6:05 PM DH (season preview)
Probable starter: Eduardo Vera (5.60 ERA, 66:20 SO/BB, 90.0 IP) and James Marvel (NR)

AA: Altoona (45-38) vs Erie (44-38) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brandon Waddell (2.77 ERA, 14:4 SO/BB, 13.0 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (46-37) vs Florida (29-54) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Brad Case (3.38 ERA, 17:3 SO/BB, 24.0 IP)

Low-A: Greensboro (51-33) vs Lakewood (35-50) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Nova (3.91 ERA, 21:4 SO/BB, 29.1 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (11-9) @ Williamsport (4-16) 1:05 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Grant Ford (7.71 ERA, 3:6 SO/BB, 4.2 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (8-8) @ Greeneville (6-10) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Florencio (6.30 ERA, 4:2 SO/BB, 10.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (4-4) vs Orioles (7-1) 10:00 AM DH (season preview)

DSL: Pirates1 (13-16) vs Dodgers Shoemaker (14-15) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

DSL: Pirates2 (23-6) vs Mariners (11-18) 10:30 AM  (season preview)

HIGHLIGHTS

From Altoona on Wednesday night, here is Chris Sharpe hitting his third home run since joining the Curve. He had five with Bradenton

Matt Eckelman records the final out, making him 15-for-15 in saves this season.

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

7/4: Ke’Bryan Hayes and Pablo Reyes activated off Indianapolis injured list. Yefry Ramirez placed on temporary inactive list. Logan Hill assigned to Altoona.

7/4: Gregory Polanco assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/3: Pirates sign Jake Wright and Jasiah Dixon

7/3: Jake Brentz placed on temporary inactive list

7/3: Yandy Vega and Hai-Cheng Gong assigned to GCL Pirates

7/2: Pirates sign a ton of international players

7/2: Mario Garcia promoted to GCL Pirates

7/1: James Marvel promoted to Indianapolis. Blake Cederlind added back to Altoona roster

7/1: Pirates sign JC Flowers, Ethan Paul, Jake Snider and Marshall Gilbert.

6/30: Hunter Owen placed on Indianapolis injured list (retroactive to 6/27).

6/30: Oneil Cruz activated from Bradenton injured list. Chase Lambert placed on injured list.

6/30: Yandy Vega and Hai-Cheng Gong assigned to Morgantown.

6/29: Ke’Bryan Hayes and Pablo Reyes assigned to Morgantown on rehab.

6/29: Ryan Peurifoy assigned to Bradenton

6/29: Fernando Villegas assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab

6/29: CJ Dandeneau and Alex Roth assigned to Bristol.

6/29: Jordan Lyles activated from injured list. Geoff Hartlieb optioned to Indianapolis.

6/28: Pirates release Nick Franklin.

6/28: Daniel Amaral placed on injured list. Ike Schlabach activated from injured list.

6/28: Pirates sign Orsen Josephina.

6/28: Oliver Mateo placed on injured list.

6/27: Jake Elmore activated from Indianapolis injured list.

6/27: Pirates sign Gift Ngoepe.

6/27: Zack Kone and Jonah Davis added to Greensboro roster.

6/27: Dario Agrazal optioned to Indianapolis. Pirates recall Dovydas Neverauskas

6/27: Aaron Shortridge placed on Bradenton injured list.

6/25: Pirates send Pat Dorrian to Baltimore Orioles to complete Yefry Ramirez trade.

6/25: Pirates recall Dario Agrazal. Option Jason Martin to Indianapolis.

6/25: Cody Bolton promoted to Altoona. Blake Cederlind placed on the temporary inactive list.

6/25: Daniel Amaral activated from Bradenton injured list.

THIS DATE IN PIRATES HISTORY

Four former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, including a Hall of Famer who spent one season with the Pirates. Starting with the most recent first and it’s the Hall of Fame pitcher, Goose Gossage. He was acquired for Richie Zisk prior to the 1977 season and left after the season via free agency. Gossage was a reliever for Pittsburgh, but he threw 133 innings over 72 appearances and posted a 1.62 ERA, with 151 strikeouts. He won 11 games and picked up 26 saves for the Pirates.

Other players born on this date include 1909 outfielder Ward Miller, 1908 outfielder Beals Becker and 1902 pitcher Harvey Cushman. Becker won 25 games in the minors in 1906, but just two years later he was a Major League outfielder. Miller was a member of the team’s first World Series champs, but he was traded away early in the season, so he didn’t get to celebrate the win. Cushman played for the best team in franchise history, but he kept them from being better. The Pirates had a 102-36 record that season, yet Cushman made four starts for the team and lost all four, which were his only games in the majors.

On this date in 2005, Kip Well threw a shutout against the Philadelphia Phillies while striking out 12 batters. It was the second and last shutout of his career. The win gave him a 6-8 record on the season, but he would end up going 2-10 the rest of the way. Boxscore can be found here.

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