- Full name Clayton W. Holmes
- Born 03/27/1993 in Dothan, AL
- Profile Ht.: 6'5" / Wt.: 245 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Slocomb
- Debut 04/06/2018
Drafted in the 9th round (272nd overall) by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011 (signed for $1,200,000).
View Draft ReportHolmes was being recruited by most of Alabama's mid-major programs such as Troy and Samford last year, but Auburn swooped in to grab his commitment after his stuff jumped up a notch this spring and he became the state's top propsect. A strong student, he is the state coaches association's student-athlete of the year, is his school's valedictorian and got a lot tougher to sign when Auburn entered the picture. Holmes is a classic raw arm from the South, with good size but plenty to learn in pro ball. At 6-foot-4, 225 pounds, he has present strength in his frame and in his arm, with an above-average fastball at 90-93 mph. He holds his velocity better at some times than others, typical of a high school pitcher, and has shown the ability to stay tall in his delivery and throw downhill. His slider has ranged from average with flashes of plus to terrible. Scouts who have seen it good like its power and occasional depth. His delivery has plenty of effort and is far from fluid, leading to bouts of wildness, but his arm is fast enough to overcome the flaws and he racked up plenty of strikeouts. Scouts also disagree about his level of athleticism.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Track Record: Seven years after earning the highest signing bonus ever given to a ninth-round pick--$1.2 million--Holmes finally broke into the big leagues in 2018. Holmes' career track was disrupted in 2014 because of Tommy John surgery, which cost him all of that season and most of 2015. He worked his way back with average performances at Double-A Altoona in 2016 and Triple-A Indianapolis in 2017, and he made his debut in April with the Pirates in need of long relief help.
Scouting Report: Holmes had one strong start with the Pirates but was largely overmatched. He walked 23 batters in 26.1 innings and posted a 6.84 ERA. His heavy sinker averages 94 mph and gives him an outstanding groundball rate. But when he's behind in counts, it's not good enough to throw by hitters. He has a looping fringe-average curveball and a sharp above-average slider/cutter, but he struggles with well below-average control and command, especially when he's trying to paint the corners. He struck out 100 batters in 95.1 innings at Triple-A in 2018, but his strikeout rates are usually modest.
The Future: Holmes' sinker and velocity will probably mean another year of spot starts, long relief and trips back and forth from Pittsburgh to Indianapolis.
Holmes still has the highest signing bonus ever given to a ninth-round pick at $1.2 million--which convinced the high school valedictorian and physics enthusiast not to go to Auburn. However, the Pirates haven't seen any return on that investment at the major league level yet, thanks in large part to his Tommy John surgery in 2014. Holmes' 2016 and 2017 seasons show him coming much closer to making the leap, though, when he proved to be a durable starter with an average strikeout rate at Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis. He has a heavy, two-seam fastball with which he usually pitches in the 94-96 mph range and a big, looping curveball that he struggles to control but could use as a chase pitch. He also throws a slider/cutter around 90 mph and keeps in the zone. His walk numbers remain a bit too high. Holmes doesn't have a true out pitch, but he is an extreme groundball pitcher, which the Pirates favor. He has a chance to break into the majors in 2018, either as a starter if the Pirates deal with extensive injuries, or in long relief.
Holmes appeared solidly committed to Auburn after being his high school valedictorian with a strong interest in physics, but the Pirates swooped in with a $1.2 million signing bonus. It remains the largest bonus ever given to a ninth-round pick. Holmes' development stalled when he had Tommy John surgery in May 2014, but he was completely healthy again in 2016 and spent the entire season in the Double-A Altoona rotation. Holmes' best pitch is a fastball that sits in the low 90s with better sinking action on it since he returned from surgery. Nearly 63 percent of batted balls against him were groundballs in 2016. Holmes also throws a curveball, slider and changeup. His curveball became a strikeout pitch for him late in 2016, and the key is now turning his changeup into a third at least average pitch. He has the large frame that should allow to be a durable innings eater if he can be more pitch-efficient and reduce his walk rate. The Pirates added him to the 40-man roster after the 2016 season and spring training will determine whether he returns to Altoona or moves up to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Holmes was the valedictorian of his high school class, with a proclivity for physics, so his Auburn commitment seemed strong. But the Pirates gave him a $1.2 million bonus as a 2011 ninth-round pick to steer him away from college. He was on his way before his career was derailed in 2014 by an elbow injury during spring training and subsequent Tommy John surgery. He sat out all of 2014 and the first three months of 2015 before returning on July 7 and logging 36 innings over nine starts. Holmes has the making of a good three-pitch mix. He gets good sink on his low-90s fastball and complements it with a solid changeup and an improving curveball. With great makeup, he figures to maximize his talent with his smarts, feel for the game and mound presence. The Pirates will take it slow with Holmes again in 2016 as they continue to build his innings total. A return to Bradenton is likely, with an eye toward a summer promotion to Double-A Altoona. Holmes has a chance to be an above-average starter, though he might not be a factor in Pittsburgh until 2017.
Holmes figured to be a tough sign out of high school in Slocomb, Ala. He was headed to Auburn after being high school valedictorian and winning the Alabama state coaches association's student-athlete of the year award. However, the Pirates won him over with a $1.2 million bonus. Holmes suffered a major setback in 2014 when he tore an elbow ligament during spring training, then missed the season after having Tommy John surgery. Many scouts viewed him as an injury waiting to happen because of his violent mechanics, and he is putting in extra work in an effort to smooth them out while he rehabs. Before being injured, Holmes had two plus pitches in a low-90s fastball he can sink and a curveball. He was also showing improvement with his changeup. Though Holmes lost a year of developmental time, he will likely be ready to pitch at either low Class A West Virginia or high Class A Bradenton by the end of April 2015.
The valedictorian of his Slocomb High class, Holmes had a strong commitment to Auburn. However, the Pirates went over slot and signed him for $1.2 million, even though he was considered a bit of a project because of inconsistent, maximum-effort mechanics. Holmes' fastball sits at 90-92 mph, but his best pitch is a sharp-breaking slider that he has a hard time throwing consistently for strikes. His changeup still is in the rudimentary stages. While Holmes appeared to take a step backward in 2013--he issued 5.2 walks per nine innings--he was not quite as bad as he looked. Opposing hitters batted .240 and slugged just .339. The Pirates knew Holmes was a project when they drafted him, but they will challenge him in 2014 with an assignment to high Class A Bradenton.
Holmes was the valedictorian of his high school class and the Alabama coaches association student-athlete of the year in 2011. He was part of the Pirates' draft binge that year, when they set bonus records for the first (Gerrit Cole, $8 million), second (Josh Bell, $5 million) and ninth (Holmes, $1.2 million) rounds. In his 2012 pro debut, he limited more advanced hitters to a .176 average, which would have ranked second in the New York-Penn League if he hadn't missed qualifying by two innings. Holmes uses his big frame and quick arm to throw 90-95 mph fastballs on a steep downward plane. He can pound the bottom of the strike zone when his mechanics are in sync, but he's still learning to consistently control all of his pitches. He also throws a hard three-quarters breaking ball and is working to add a changeup. Holmes is a good athlete for his size, which bodes well for his ability to repeat his delivery and throw more strikes. He's built for durability and gets high marks for his maturity and competitiveness. Holmes' arm strength and smarts give him the upside of a No. 3 starter, though he's still a long ways from reaching that ceiling. He's ready to advance to low Class A in 2013.
The Pirates have paid out the highest bonuses in draft history in the first (Gerrit Cole, $8 million), second (Josh Bell, $5 million), eighth (Colton Cain, $1.125 million) and ninth (Holmes, $1.2 million) rounds. Holmes was able to land a seven-figure bonus because he not only had a big league body and fastball, but he also was the valedictorian of his high school class and strongly committed to Auburn. Holmes already sits at 90-93 mph with good sink on his heater, and he could add more velocity as he fills out his lanky frame. His best secondary pitch is a spike curveball with 12-to-6 break, though it's a bit inconsistent at this point. Holmes' changeup is in the rudimentary stages, but he's a quick learner. His biggest need will be to develop control and command, the result of a delivery that features significant effort. He'll likely begin the 2012 season in extended spring training to get better acclimated to pro ball before making his debut in the Gulf Coast or New York-Penn League in June.
Minor League Top Prospects
The valedictorian of his high school class, Holmes fetched a ninth-round record $1.2 million bonus to bypass a commitment to Auburn. He showed in his debut this summer that the Pirates' investment could pay off in a huge way. Big and physical, Holmes has a tough downward angle on 90-95 mph fastball and hitters have a difficult time picking it up. He pitches heavily off his heater, pounding the bottom of the strike zone when he's on, though his control can come and go. He also impresses with his maturity, mound presence and competitiveness. Holmes' fastball is ahead of his secondary stuff at this stage, but he has the makings of a quality three-pitch repertoire. His three-quarters breaking ball has good tilt, though he needs to repeat it more consistently. His changeup is still in its early stages of development.
Background: Holmes was the valedictorian of his high school class and the Alabama coaches association student-athlete of the year in 2011. He was part of the Pirates' draft binge that year, when they set bonus records for the first (Gerrit Cole, $8 million), second (Josh Bell, $5 million) and ninth (Holmes, $1.2 million) rounds. In his 2012 pro debut, he limited more advanced hitters to a .176 average, which would have ranked second in the New York-Penn League if he hadn't missed qualifying by two innings. Scouting Report: Holmes uses his big frame and quick arm to throw 90-95 mph fastballs on a steep downward plane. He can pound the bottom of the strike zone when his mechanics are in sync, but he's still learning to consistently control all of his pitches. He also throws a hard three-quarters breaking ball and is working to add a changeup. Holmes is a good athlete for his size, which bodes well for his ability to repeat his delivery and throw more strikes. He's built for durability and gets high marks for his maturity and competitiveness. The Future: Holmes' arm strength and smarts give him the upside of a No. 3 starter, though he's still a long ways from reaching that ceiling. He's ready to advance to low Class A in 2013.