Holmes gets fresh start in Williamsport

Jake Holmes took a step back in his career Wednesday. But it’s a step back the Williamsport Crosscutters’ infielder hopes will be a spring-board forward.

The former 11th-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Phillies was demoted from Lakewood to Williamsport yesterday after hitting just .154 in 55 games with the BlueClaws. But Holmes, who played 29 games with the Cutters a year ago, came into Bowman Field with confidence.

As much as Wednesday was demotion for Holmes, it was also a fresh start. Being sent to Williamsport gives the 21-year-old an opportunity to reset and forget about the misfortunes he suffered three-plus months in Lakewood.

“I’d say coming here is perfect,” Holmes said following batting practice a Bowman Field. “I’m 0 for 0. I get a fresh start to the season and I can just compete.”

Competing is what Holmes is looking to get back to doing with his return to Williamsport. During his time in Lakewood, he and the coaching staff were tinkering with his swing to try and get more power. He’s hit just seven home runs in 147 pro games since being drafted in the 11th round in 2017. But that tinkering with his swing, adding a bigger leg kick and changing the path of his hands to the baseball, never allowed him to feel comfortable in the batter’s box.

So now that he’s back in Williamsport, Holmes focus is on finding comfort in the batter’s box again. He’s going back to some of the same mechanics and thought processes which helped him hit .252 with a .330 on-base percentage with the Cutters a year ago.

He wants to simplify his approach so he can find that comfort in the box again. He knows if he can find that comfort, with it comes confidence to be successful.

“We’re taking a step back to get back on the right page and go from there,” Holmes said. “Coming back here brings me back to last year a little bit and some of the success I did have.”

This season has been a learning experience like no other for Holmes. He’s never experienced failure quite like this before. He was a career .288 hitter in the minors before this season.

Drafted out of Pinnacle High School in Arizona, he went directly from being a high school stud to having a modicum of success as a pro. Then the bottom fell out this year. He’s had just three multi-hit games since the beginning of May. He was just 7 for 53 in June with three times as many strikeouts as walks.

Holmes did his best to focus on the details and the work he was putting in everyday as opposed to the big picture of what was happening with his season. But he couldn’t help but notice everywhere he turned how his struggles seemed to be staring him in the face. It’s a big part of the reason he’s looking for a fresh start in Williamsport.

“I think the results have a huge part in your confidence,” Holmes said. “I think the better you play, the more confident you are. When you have those tough stretches, like a half season when you’re struggling, I think the confidence really falls and you have to find a way to pick yourself up and keep working hard.”

Despite the lack of results in recent weeks, Holmes said his confidence is still in a good spot. It’s not back to where he wants it to be just yet, but he’s trusting the work he does every day to get him prepared to return to the level of success he’s previously enjoyed.

Step one of that plan was putting together a solid round of batting practice Wednesday. The next step is making sure he’s confident and comfortable in the batter’s box. And if all of that, including Wednesday’s demotion, helps him find the swing which put him on several top prospects lists in the offseason, then it will all be worth it.

“Even though it’s a step back in terms of levels, it will be a step forward in the long run,” Holmes said. “If I can get back on the right track and move on from there and not have to take steps back as I move up, it’s a good thing. Hopefully I can get into a rhythm and keep moving forward.”