Name: Grant Holmes
Height/Weight: 6’1’’, 215
Acquired: From the Dodgers in a trade on Aug. 1, 2016.
Since going 22nd overall in the 2014 MLB Draft to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Grant Holmes has been challenged to play up a level ahead of his age group. That trend continued in 2017, when he was one of the youngest players in the Texas League. Can Holmes conquer Triple-A in his age-22 season?
Holmes won’t turn 22 until late March, but the right-hander is already positioned to make a push for the big leagues by his age-23 season. Holmes had a productive season with Double-A Midland in 2017, and he looks poised to make the jump to Triple-A in 2018.
Originally drafted out of high school by the Dodgers in 2014, Holmes spent his first full professional season pitching in the Midwest League at age 19. In 2016, he jumped to the High-A California League, pitching first for Rancho Cucamonga and later for the Stockton Ports after the A’s acquired Holmes from the Dodgers in a deadline deal.
The A’s continued the trend of pitting Holmes up against older competition in 2017. He opened the season with Double-A Midland and remained a key cog in the RockHounds’ rotation for the entire year. Holmes showed improvement as the season went on, attacking the strike-zone with more confidence and working deeper into games the second half of the year. By the end of the season, he had racked up 148.1 innings and a 4.49 ERA.
Holmes’ year-end ERA may not have been impressive, but much of that inflated ERA was due to a slow start early in the year. In April, he posted a 6.27 ERA and walked 10 in 18.2 innings. Then in May, Holmes had a 5.52 ERA in 29.1 innings. He started to turn things around near the All-Star break. Pre-All-Star break, Holmes’ ERA was 4.96 and he allowed opposing batters to hit .300 against him. Post-All-Star break, his ERA was 3.97 and opposing batters hit .215 against him. Holmes’ K% and BB% stayed roughly the same between the two halves, but the quality of strikes Holmes threw in the second half increased significantly. He finished the year with 150:61 K:BB in those 148.2 innings pitched.
According to A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman, Holmes’ second-half improvement was a result of his growing maturity on the mound.
“A lot of these younger guys don’t understand as they start out the importance of situations and making your pitches. They just give up runs because they didn’t think through the situation beforehand,” Lieppman said in a late-season interview. “He’s come to understand the big pitches he has to make and not to get lazy with your thinking and to throw a pitch that doesn’t have any intent. Learning to do that with every pitch that you throw is really a grind and a lot of guys don’t learn how to do that right away. It’s simple and clichéd, but it really is important to learn how to do that.”
Holmes came up particularly big for the RockHounds down-the-stretch. With the RockHounds having no margin for error while chasing a postseason berth during the final week of the regular season, Holmes allowed two runs in 13 innings over his final two starts. His first postseason start was mediocre (three earned runs in 4.1 innings), but his second start helped the RockHounds make a comeback for the title in the Championship series when he allowed two earned runs in 6.1 innings.
Holmes’ four-seam fastball can hit the upper-90s, but he found more success throwing strikes with a two-seamer that sat in the low-90s. The pitch is one that A’s minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson worked on with Holmes during the 2016 Instructional League. Lieppman liked what he saw from the pitch in 2017.
“It’s a very sharp sinker. It’s like Kendall Graveman’s sinker, when Graveman is right. It may not have the high velocity that Graveman’s sinker does, but it has the same kind of movement,” Lieppman said. “It goes to the arm-side and right-handers have a really tough time with it and left-handers really have to reach to get there. He can throw it to the front door or back door and it creates a lot of downward angle. He has a really great change-up, too. Sometimes I don’t know how he gets hit because he has really good stuff.”
In addition to his two-seam and four-seam fastballs and his above-average curveball, Holmes has a slider and a changeup. He has a strong lower half and has been very durable throughout his career. Holmes can induce swings-and-misses and generate groundballs. Location is Holmes’ biggest weakness currently. As mentioned earlier, he showed improvement in that area last season, but he will need to continue to shore up his location as he moves on to Triple-A and beyond.
The A’s have a lot of questions in their big league starting rotation going into spring training, but there should still be room for Holmes in the Triple-A Nashville rotation at the end of camp. If he has to return to Midland to start the year, he should still get plenty of time in Triple-A by the end of the season. He will need to be added to the A’s 40-man roster this offseason to protect him from the Rule 5 draft.
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