As the offseason starts to rev up and the Pirates search for starting pitch help one internal option continues to be overlooked: Nick Kingham.
In the fourth round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates drafted right-handed prep pitcher Nick Kingham. After being drafted it did not take Kingham long to become one of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects. In fact, Kingham was a top-100 prospect in all of baseball in both 2014 and 2015.
Entering the 2015 season Kingham seemed prime to make his Major League debut. He finished the 2014 season at Triple-A and due to this it appeared he would get the call up to the Pirates at some point in 2015. However, the would not be the case.
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In 2015 Kingham was able to log 31 1/3 inning at Triple-A. He averaged 9.19 K/9, 2.01 BB/9, 0.86 HR/9, and he had a 3.22 FIP. Nick Kingham appeared to be well on his way to earning a call up to the Major Leagues, and fast, in 2015.
Due to injury Kingham’s call up would never happen. After making just six starts in 2015 he found out he needed Tommy John Surgery. And due to this, he missed the rest of 2015 and most of 2016.
Nick Kingham returned to the mound late in the summer of 2016. He made six starts for the Gulf Coast League Pirates, two for High-A Bradenton, and then two more for Double-A Altoona. And Kingham looked like his pre-injury self at each of these stops.
In a grand total of 46 innings pitched in 2016 Kingham allowed just 37 hits, one home run, and he walked just six batters. He owned a 0.94 WHIP, 2.93 ERA, 2.31 FIP, and he held opposing hitters to just a .224 batting average.
The most encouraging sign from Kingham was his pinpoint control. Throughout his Minor League career this has always been something he was known for. However, a lot of pitchers struggle with control when first returning from Tommy John Surgery. Nick Kingham, however, was not one of these pitchers.
Nick Kingham’s best pitch has always been his curve ball and that remained the case in 2016. While rehabbing all reports were that his curve had the break that it has always been known for. Once again, this is a great sign.
The position Nick Kingham is currently in is very similar to the one Jameson Taillon was in last year at this time. A player who, if not for injury, would already be in the Major Leagues but faced set back due to injury. The difference is that, unlike Taillon, Kingham has not missed the previous two seasons. Due to this, he is closer to the Major Leagues than Taillon was last year at this time.
In my opinion, Nick Kingham can give the Pirates’ rotation a huge boost in 2017. I also beleive that boost can come early in the season. Keep Kingham in mind moving forward.