2023 Fantasy Baseball Relief Pitcher Player Spotlight: Clay Holmes
Published: Mar 10, 2023
Updated: Mar 10, 2023
Through his first 37 appearances of the 2022 season Clay Holmes was one of the best relievers in baseball. Holmes held opposing batters to a .165/.213/.188 triple slash line and he posted a 0.47 ERA and a 0.71 WHIP during that time frame. His 97 MPH sinker was Holmes’ most effective pitch, and it induced an 84.21 GB rate.
Holmes’ early season dominance helped him to quickly wrestle the Yankees’ closers job away from slumping Aroldis Chapman. Holmes converted 16 of his first 17 save opportunities and held seven games during that time span.
Shortly thereafter, Holmes’ season began to unravel. His sinker suddenly betrayed him, and it stunk the better part of the second half of his season. In Holmes’ final 25 regular season games he saved four games and blew four other save opportunities. His sinker wasn’t generating swings and misses like it had earlier in the season. It registered a .267 BAA and his overall BB/9 and WHIP climbed to 5.26 and 1.48, respectively.
An August stint on the IL due to back spasms added to his second half woes. He pitched much better (3.07 ERA in his final 13 games) after being reinstated, but he was nowhere close to matching his early season brilliance.
Holmes will open the 2023 season as the Yankees’ closer, but his success will be linked to his sinker. If Holmes can rein it in, limit the number of walks he issues, and coax opposing batters to chase it, he could potentially be one of the best closers in the game.
Holmes is keenly aware of how important controlling his sinker is to his overall performance. After taking some time to physically recover from the grueling 2022 season, Holmes began utilizing smart baseballs from pitchLogic whose technology provides instant personalized feedback on his pitches. The data delivered by the pitchLogic technology includes but is not limited to, information related to pitch speed, movement and spin rate. Holmes used pitchLogic when he was a Pittsburgh Pirate and he found it very useful. With pitchLogic providing data and recommendations relating to his arm slot position when throwing his sinker, Holmes is hoping to learn how to relieve some of the stress on his shoulder and maintain his arm strength for a full season.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone has suggested that he may occasionally use Holmes in matchup based high leverage non-save situations. The Yankees may also choose to limit his overall usage in order to avoid having his body breakdown the way it did last season. They have plenty of capable arms in their bullpen. Wandy Peralta and Michael King had better numbers against left-handed batters than Holmes did last season and when Jonathan Loaisiga is fully healthy, he has the makings of a top closer.
Those situations could end up capping Holmes’ overall seasonal save total, however with the Yankees expected to win a lot of games this season, as long as Holmes is able to hold on to the closers gig, he'll get plenty of save opportunities. Most major projection models expect that he can potentially save at least 25 games this season.
According to FantasyPros’ consensus ADP, Holmes is the 13th closer/reliever coming off the board in preseason drafts. He’s sandwiched in between Red Sox closer Kenley Jansen and Pirates closer David Bednar. There’s risk in drafting Holmes as your number one closer based on last season’s inconsistency and his recent injury history. However, with the Yankees’ Over/Under win total sitting at 95.5 right now at BetMGM he may have significantly higher upside than Jansen and Bednar who’ll be closing out games for expected win challenged teams like the Red Sox (77.5 Over/Under win total) and the Pirates (66.5 Over/Under win total), respectively.
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