Analysis: The Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the New York Yankees 3-2 yesterday. However, the Bucs got a chance to send one of their top pitching prospects to the mound.
Over Neal Huntington’s tenure, one thing that he has been noted for is his ability to find high upside prep pitchers outside of the first two rounds. One of those pitchers is Nick Kingham. Kingham was a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 out of a High School in Las Vegas. He did not come into the system highly rated, but he has since established himself as a legitimate prospect, including being a top 100 prospect entering the 2015 season.
Kingham’s dissent to the big leagues has been a well-tested one. Not only was he drafted out of high school, being viewed as a raw prospect on top of that, but he also had to miss significant time with an injury. Kingham and former top prospect Jameson Taillon worked their way up the minors together. However, Taillon went down with Tommy John in 2014, making it likely that Kingham would reach the majors first in 2015. However, the following year, the Pittsburgh Pirates lost Nick Kingham to Tommy John. This was after Kingham made six appearances in Triple-A. He likely would have made his big league debut in 2015 if not for the surgery. Instead, he is more likely to make it this year, nearly two years later.
Fortunately, the Tommy John surgery has become a more routine surgery than it was in the past. Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates have become well equipped on how to handle and rehab returning pitchers. Because of this, the Pittsburgh Pirates still have high hopes for Nick Kingham. He will be a big part of this rotation going forward, and likely will make his debut this year. They got to use him in Spring Training action yesterday against the Yankees. The game was able to be viewed on MLB.tv or the Yankee’s network, The YES Network. Late last night, MLB Network showed the game also.
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Kingham started the third inning, following Jameson Taillon, who pitched the first two innings. The first thing that was clear about Kingham was his size. He is listed at 6’6” and 235 pounds. He fills up the mound and looks like a workhorse in the making. Next was his clean delivery. Often times it seems that pitchers who receive Tommy-John surgery have the issue because of their mechanics. However, Kingham has made adjustments to his mechanics and looks much cleaner in his delivery. Kingham mainly worked three pitches to the Yankee hitters. The pitch he threw the most was a two-seam fastball. The fastball sat at 93 miles per hour, but his velocity ranged from 91-95 through his two innings.
After his fastball, Kingham used his changeup the most. It looked like a circle-change coming out of his hand, and faded down and in against righties as a circle change does. It looked like a plus pitch, he mainly threw it from 85-86 miles per hour. There is enough movement and enough variance in speed from his fastball that it should be a plus pitch for him as he develops.
The last pitch to look at is his curveball. Coming up through the minors, Kingham’s curveball has always been seen as a plus pitch. It is similar to Jameson Taillon’s where it moves in a 12-6 direction. It has relatively big break, and it looks like a pitch that will freeze hitters, or they will swing over the top of it pounding it into a ground ball out or a swing and miss. This pitch mainly sat in the low 80s, hitting 81 numerous times.
However, there were some inconsistencies with the pitch. He had trouble locating it. This could be because it is Spring Training and he mainly is working on fastball and changeups as he builds up for the season. With that being said, there were a few times where he did not finish his curve, leaving it up in the zone for a ball. Against Aaron Judge, Kingham struggled to throw it and get Judge to fish. Because of this, Judge worked a walk after fouling at least six pitches off.
If Kingham wants to have success at the MLB level, he will need that pitch to mix up hitters for outs. Also, the one run Kingham gave up was on a wild pitch. It was a low and away curveball that deflected off of catcher Jacob Stalling’s chest protector. Nick Kingham showed a lot of good stuff yesterday. He was locating his fastball and changeup well, but needs some work on locating his curveball. If he can do a better job of locating his curveball and throwing it consistently, then he will have three effective pitches to work with at the next level. If he has three effective pitches, Kingham has the upside to be a very good number three type pitcher. With Taillon and Cole, that is all the Pittsburgh Pirates will need him to be.