If the Dodgers found themselves fortunate to find Grant Holmes still unselected by their first pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, they probably found themselves even more vindicated by Holmes’ first full professional season in 2015. Holmes overcame a rough first month to put together a stretch as good as anyone in the organization before tiring in August, but still clearing the 100-inning threshold. As a yet-to-turn-20-year-old, Holmes is the first player profiled this year that I gave an 80 grade ceiling to, as his exceptional potential could make him an ace. However, Holmes' precociousness also rivals the lowest floor of top ten prospects.
I did not set out with the expectation or the intent to rank Grant Holmes ahead of Jose De Leon, but the way I set the ranking system up to equate the positions on their own, Holmes considerable ceiling gave him the final advantage. The biggest takeaway from this ranking should be that I find De Leon to be a very defined prospect, while Holmes still has a broad spectrum of outcomes.
While Holmes climbs the ladder, the most likely outcome is that his floor raises while his ceiling dips, so whether or not he ranks so high in future years will be determined by how much he is able to refine his tools and maintain his status as an upper-echelon starting pitcher. Given the results of his 2015 campaign, he’s off to an encouraging start.
Holmes’ 80-grade ceiling is built on the foundation of two plus to double-plus pitches, his curveball and fastball. Holmes has not grown into his eventual velocity, so while reports suggest he sat more comfortably 92-96 mph, he has reached 98 mph in the past and has the frame to hold velocity deep into games across a long season. Beyond velocity, Holmes might have the most electric movement on his fastball in the system. Holmes’ fastball has heavy sink at the lower ranges of his velocity, but keeps plus riding life at the top end as well. The pitch is extremely tough for hitters to square and helped suppress home runs in his first full season (just six in 103 innings).
While Julio Urias may top Holmes on consistency and command with the curveball, Holmes’ offering has the superior life and ceiling. His curve has notable velocity for the depth that he creates. When he stays online, he can drop the pitch over a right-hander’s shoulder and make the offering more than just a chase pitch with sharp bite.
Holmes has a developing change-up with the amount of life you would expect from someone with an already electric repertoire. The pitch needs probably more polish and command clean-up than the other two offerings.
Perhaps the biggest issue with Holmes’s stuff is the consistency, stemming largely from his delivery. Holmes can struggle to stay online with his upper half (his lead foot occasionally plants to narrow allowing for over-rotation of the upper half instead of in a motion more on-line with the plate) and will occasionally sweep his arm action across his body, which takes away run on the fastball and and changes the shape of the curve to more of a sweeping slurve. Most detrimental, when he goes off-line, it hampers the overall command of his stuff. His arm action and athleticism overall is solid, and Holmes should improve his command as he matures. Some reports question Holmes’s build and his overall upside, but I compare his stature to Matt Cain and could see him still gain strength with more maturity.
Holmes’ future can take two distinct paths that will shape his future ranking. One likely scenario is that Holmes fails to approve his command above a grade 50, limits his repertoire to just the fastball-curveball, and finds his ceiling at elite closer. The second is that his command improves across the board with experience, the change-up a solid average offering, and his ceiling stays high as a future number one/elite number two starter. At this point, I’m not willing to throw support behind either option, but instead recognize the likelihood of either outcome.
Grant Holmes will face a stiffer challenge in the offensive environments of the California League. He will need to continue suppressing home runs while reining in his command to have the success that befits his 80 grade ceiling. I’m not sure that 2016 will give us a better indication as to whether or not his future best lies in the rotation or the bullpen, as he’ll be just 20 years old with worlds of untapped potential. That being said, a season treading water with his command and a few players ranked behind him are primed to leapfrog him in future rankings.