Name: Grant Holmes
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 215
How Acquired: Acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2016
Although strong pitching has been a trademark of the Oakland A’s minor league system for much of their time in Oakland, there was a time a few years ago when the A’s pitching depth had thinned considerably. Since 2015, the A’s have made a concerted effort to rebuild their minor league pitching depth, targeting talented arms in trades and in the draft. One of those newly acquired pitchers is right-hander Grant Holmes, who came over to the A’s in a trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers last July. Holmes has plenty of development left, but the right-hander has the raw tools to be a potential workhorse in the big leagues. Can he take a leap forward in 2017, his age-21 season?
In 2015, Holmes had a standout season for the Low-A Great Lakes Loons, posting a 3.14 ERA and striking out 117 in 103.1 innings as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League. The Dodgers continued to push Holmes up the ladder in 2016, assigning him to the offense-friendly California League for his age-20 season. As expected, the Cal League proved a bigger challenge than the Midwest League, although Holmes held his own for most of the season. While in the Dodgers’ chain, Holmes posted a 4.02 ERA and a 100:43 K:BB in 105.1 innings for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. After the A’s acquired Holmes in the Josh Reddick/Rich Hill deal with Los Angeles at the trade deadline, Holmes joined the Stockton Ports.
Holmes struggled initially with the Ports. In his first three appearances for Stockton, he allowed 16 runs in 14 innings. He improved over his final three outings, allowing six runs in 14.2 innings. All told, Holmes had a 4.63 ERA and a 124:53 K:BB in a career-high 134 innings as a 20-year-old in the Cal League in 2016.
Grant Holmes Career Stats
A’s minor league pitching coach Steve Connelly worked with Holmes in Stockton after the trade and then continued to mentor him during the A’s fall Instructional League. Connelly believes that some of Holmes’ struggles with Stockton stemmed from not being familiar with the A’s organization after spending more than two seasons with the Dodgers. Connelly was impressed with the quality of Holmes’ stuff, but said that Holmes still need work on locating his pitches better.
“He’s got electric stuff. What we worked on in Stockton was just quality of pitches. Throwing in off the plate instead of throwing in over the plate. Creating lanes with his four-seam fastball to set-up his breaking ball. Throwing the two-seam fastball more. Throwing the change-up more,” Connelly said. “He has a hard, late-diving change-up. It’s 89-90 miles an hour, but it’s got heavy sink to it and it’s a good pitch for him. When you have that kind of movement on your change-up, the separation between fastball and change-up speed isn’t as important, as long as the hitters are still out-in-front and it has that late action to it.”
A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson got an opportunity to sit down with Holmes for the first time this fall. Patterson said that Holmes’ biggest focus during Instructs was throwing his two-seamer and change-up more frequently. Patterson said he also worked with Holmes to add a cut-fastball, which he believes will be more effective than Holmes’ four-seamer, which averages mid-90s but is very straight.
“You had to take a second glance because when you watch him warm up, you almost think he’s going to throw a no-hitter each time out there. Then he gives up some hard contact [in the game] and you have to think, ‘what’s going on here,” Patterson said. “But this Instructional League, he threw only two outings and three bullpens, but I think we found some things. He has a really good change-up and his two-seamer really dive-bombs. Holmesy and Cons worked a little bit on the breaking ball to enhance it some and I think we were happy with that.
“I remember one day, he was playing catch and I said, ‘I saw a couple of your four-seamers cut. How come some do and some don’t?’ And he said, ‘if I hold it this way, it cuts, but the Dodgers always wanted me to throw it straight.’ I said, ‘you throw a pitch 94 that cuts? Show me.’ So he threw a couple and I said, ‘remember that one that you threw straight? You aren’t throwing that one anymore.’ I think going forward that pitch will be more effective for him.”
Holmes has plenty of weapons, with a four-seam fastball that can touch 96, a hard sinker that sits in the low-90s, a change-up that is firm (88-90 MPH) but has plenty of late sink (similar to a split-fingered fastball), a breaking ball and the new cut-fastball. At 6’1’’, 215, Holmes already has a mature frame that has plenty of strength in the lower half. His build is reminiscent of Cain and former A’s starter Joe Blanton, both of whom were workhorses in the big leagues. Holmes is a groundball pitcher with swing-and-miss stuff, but he is still refining his command and learning how to pitch rather than trying to overpower hitters. Given that he has pitched a full three-years younger than the average player each of the past two seasons, it isn’t surprising that he has hit a few bumps in the road.
Given that he did struggle at the end of the 2016 season, Holmes could return to the Cal League and Stockton to start the 2017 campaign if the A’s want him to build his confidence there before heading to Double-A. However, Holmes has been challenged throughout his career and it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see the A’s push him up to Midland to start the season. In any case, there is a strong probability that Holmes will spend at least half of his age-21 season in Double-A.
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