Can Clay Holmes Be A Bullpen Option For The Pirates In 2017?

Apr 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage (54) looks on from the dugout before the Pirates host the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Former top prospect Clay Holmes is battling his way back from Tommy John Surgery, so what does his future with the Pittsburgh Pirates hold?

Entering the 2014 season Clay Holmes was one of the top pitching prospects in the Pirates’ Minor League system. However, that was about to change. The reason this would change would be due to injury.

Holmes would end up requiring Tommy John Surgery. This surgery cost him the entirety of the 2014 season , as well as most of 2015. During the 2015 season Clay Holmes would pitch just 36 1/3 innings between the Gulf Coast League and High-A.

During the 2015 season Holmes was successful at both stops. He posted a 2.03 ERA and a 2.71 FIP in the Gulf Coast League. Then at High-A he posted a 2.74 ERA and a 3.21 FIP. Albeit, all of this came in small sample sizes.

Clay Holmes would then spend all of 2016 in the rotation at Double-A. In 26 starts Holmes pitched 136 1/3 innings. He averaged just 6.67 K/9, while owning an entirely too high walk rate of 4.22 BB/9. However, he did a good job of keeping the ball in the park allowing just 10 home runs.

All of this led to Holmes posting a 4.22 ERA and a 4.55 FIP at Double-A in 2016. While the results were not the best, what was important is that Holmes stayed healthy and logged innings. His 136 1/3 innings pitched in 2016 a new career high for his professional career. Topping his previous career high of 119 innings pitched in 2013.

In a somewhat surprising move the Pittsburgh Pirates added Clay Holmes to their 40-man roster earlier this offseason. This move was done to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. Due to this, I see Holmes opening the 2017 season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

However, it would appear the Triple-A rotation is already full. Frank Duncan, Nick Kingham, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams all appear to be set to open the year in the Indianapolis starting rotation. Additionally, Tyler Glasnow, if he does not make the Big League team out of Spring Training, will be in this starting rotation as well.

Personally, I would have Clay Holmes pitch out of the bullpen for Triple-A this season. In my opinion, his best opportunity to make an impact in the Major Leagues will be as a relief pitcher. Therefore, the Pirates should have him start to pitch in relief this season.

Clay Holmes throws a plus fastball that sits in the 93-95 mile per hour range. Moving him to the bullpen should add a tick or two to his fastball, allowing it to sit in the high 90s. Additionally, Holmes also throws a power curveball that features good bite. He also throws a change up that, while still not polished, would be good enough to help him get left-handed hitters out.

The biggest problem for Holmes last year was his control. However, Ray Searage is the master at helping pitchers fix control issues. Also, it is not uncommon for pitchers to struggle with control after returning form Tommy John Surgery.

In my opinion, Clay Holmes could be a very good bullpen option for the Pirates in the near future. Due to this I would have him open the 2017 season in the bullpen at Triple-A Indianapolis. If this happens I believe we will see Clay in the Major Leagues at some point in 2017.

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