Our 40 in 40 series, which looks at each member of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40 man roster continues today with another minor leaguer that could make his debut at some point this season, Clay Holmes.
The 2018 season could see a few top prospects for the Pittsburgh Pirates finally make their way to the big leagues. Nick Kingham certainly represents one of the top options if the team needs another starter at some point this season. But his fellow Indianapolis teammate, Clay Holmes, could also be on the short list when it comes to internal promotions this year.
Holmes, the team’s ninth round selection in the 2011 amateur draft, lost a full year of development after he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014. He came back in 2015 but was only able to pitch in nine games, but in those nine games showed why the team drafted him out of high school in 2011. But in those nine games, split between two of the lower affiliates in the minor league system, Holmes pitched 36.1 innings and posted a 2.97 ERA with 26 strikeouts and eight walks.
For his career Holmes is 31-25 with a 3.59 ERA in 99 games in the minor leagues. He’s worked a total of 463.2 innings and has struck out 350 and walked 229. The walk rate is a little concerning as it works out to an average of 4.4 per nine innings. So while he does not issue free passes at the rate his teammate Tyler Glasnow does, the base on balls could present a problem at the Major League level.
However, Holmes has been well above average at generating ground balls through his professional career. Last season he posted a 61.5 ground ball percentage, which followed a 61.8 in 2016 and 66.7 in 2015. Since the Pirates have been an organization that has focused on generating ground ball outs in the past, Holmes appears to fit the ideology that the Pirates have pushed in recent years.
Because Holmes has an above average ground ball rate, it should be of no surprise that he is successful at limiting the number of home runs that he gives up. Last year in 112.2 innings, Holmes only allowed four home runs. In 2016, when he pitched a career high 136.1 innings, he served up just ten long balls. His home run per nine innings sits at a remarkable 0.4, as he has surrendered just 22 in his 463.2 innings of work.
Got the basics down
While Holmes has shown a great ability to get ground balls and limit home runs, there is some concern when the advanced statistics are brought into play. Every year since Holmes joined the organization, he has posted a FIP that was higher than his ERA. Since FIP is considered to better represent a pitcher’s performance than ERA, it is troubling to see that each year Holmes has finished with a higher FIP. Last year his ERA was 3.36 and his FIP was 3.83, so while it is not a very big difference, it indicates that his ERA does not totally reflect his performance. But given the state of the rotation for the Pirates, neither of those numbers from last year should be a roadblock to him eventually reaching the majors this year.
Like Kingham, Holmes should be one of the top internal options of a situation comes up and the team needs another starter. His ability to generate ground balls is an ability that will play well for the Pittsburgh Pirates given the organization’s goal of getting outs in that manner. Since he has never been plagued by home runs in the past, there is no reason to think that if he would make it to the majors that all of the sudden this would be an issue. The biggest issue with Holmes is that he gives up too many free passes, but since he is able to induce so many ground balls, he can clean some of those up with double plays. While Kingham should be the top option in the minors if the team needs a starter, Holmes should not be too far behind him.
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