Pittsburgh Pirates Prospect Report: Nick Kingham
While many Pirates’ fans are well aware of pitching prospects like Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon, the team’s 3rd ranked pitching prospect – and number 11 overall prospect – Nick Kingham has generally remained under the radar.
Drafted in the 4th round of the 2010 draft out of high school in Las Vegas, Kingham has seen some of his 4th round cohorts (most notably the Mariners’ James Paxton and the Twins’ Eddie Rosario) begin to make an impact in the big leagues. Had it not been for Tommy John surgery early in the 2015 season, Kingham may have found himself in the majors as well.
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Had he not gotten hurt, Nick Kingham may have been the first of the Pirates’ top pitching prospects to reach the majors. He doesn’t throw hard, by today’s standards, with a fastball that tops out around 95 mph but his repertoire and approach as a pitcher are fully developed. Because of the Pirates’ tendency to keep pitchers in the minors for as long as possible, Kingham was allowed the time to refine his control and improve his curveball.
Although he does have pretty good stuff, Kingham will still need to rely on control and mechanics in order for his success to translate to the major leagues. He pitches to contact – allowing 8.1 hits per nine innings over his 6 professional seasons – but does an excellent job of keeping the ball in the stadium. In 24 starts at Double-A, Kingham allowed just 4 home runs and has allowed just 0.7 home runs per nine innings over six seasons.
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Because he doesn’t have overpowering stuff, Kingham counts on his command to keep runs off the board. While he’s never struggled with control – allowing just 2.6 walks per nine innings over six seasons – Kingham has continued to improve and has seen his walk rate drop every season since being called up to Double-A Altoona in 2013. Despite not being known as a strikeout pitcher, he has recorded 7.8 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his career and before getting hurt, struck out 32 batters in 31 innings in 2015.
Aside from his good control, MLB.com wrote that Kingham “throws strikes with all three pitches thanks to a clean and repeatable delivery” and that he “throws his changeup with the same arm speed and good deception”. Even without typical strikeout stuff, Kingham is able to be effective by keeping batters uncomfortable and making it difficult to read his pitches.
Most of the other pitchers I’ve discussed on this list are still working on adding pitches, gaining velocity or fixing control and mechanics, but Kingham has nearly six full seasons under his belt and his approach on the mound is basically major league-ready. The surgery is obviously going to slow down his path to Pittsburgh but judging by recent trends, by 2017 he may be an even better pitcher than he was before.
Coming off the disabled list in 2016, I expect Kingham to spend the entire season in Triple-A Indianapolis. The Pirates don’t rush healthy pitchers and they surely wont rush one coming off major elbow surgery. He will get as many starts as it takes for his control and velocity to return to pre-surgery levels and by 2017, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s competing for a rotation spot out of Spring Training.
(BONUS: Here’s a video of Kingham getting some throwing in at the Pirates’ camp early on Monday)