The Pittsburgh Pirates rotation has had some rough starts of late. Could they look to the minors to get some help? One prospect might be ready to contribute at the Major League level.
Three years ago Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Nick Kingham looked to be on the fast track to the big leagues, and he was a consensus top 100 prospect in baseball. Furthermore, he was posting better numbers than top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon at each level. Meanwhile, Taillon underwent Tommy-John surgery in 2014, propelling Kingham on track to be the first of many talented pitchers to reach the majors in the coming years. Unfortunately for Kingham, things did not work out that way, and just six starts into to his 2015 campaign, Kingham himself underwent Tommy-John Surgery, setting his career back by almost two seasons.
Kingham returned toward the end of last season and was able to compile 46 innings across multiple levels. So it looked like that he could be on track to make his long-awaited début when a starter was needed. However, like things go for Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospects, things did not go smoothly at the start the season for the former top 100 prospect. Kingham pitched in Spring Training, however toward the end of March it was announced he would miss the start of the season with an ankle injury.
Kingham did not pitch until May when he made three solid starts posting a 3.00 ERA for the month at the Triple A Level. Kingham also tossed five scoreless innings in a rehab start. However, June did not go well for Kingham, as he posted a 6.23 ERA in five starts. This very well could have been his lack of activity in late March and April catching up to him. It also could have been him adjusting to pitching against higher level competition more consistently.
July he has seen Kingham pitch better, and more up to the level expected. So far through six games (five starts), he has posted a 3.68 earned run average. Now that may not seem spectacular, but the number is somewhat skewed. I am not one that likes the phrase “well if you take out x start(s) then his numbers would be good”. However, for Kingham it really is true. On July 19th the right hander had one of his worst starts of his minor league career. He made it through four innings, but proceeded to give up eight earned runs. Obviously, this is not something you want to see from one of your top pitching prospects. However, in his combined five other games, he has looked like a top pitching prospect. In those games, he has pitched 19.1 innings, yielding only four earned runs, while posting a strikeout to walk ratio of 23K/4BB. Really, outside of his one poor start, he has been quite impressive.
Give him the Call
All in all, Nick Kingham looks like he is very close to being back to form. Even in Spring Training, his fastball was sitting 93-95 with solid run to it. His curveball also looked to have the sharp break to it that it had pre-surgery. It really came down to him building his arm back up and getting used to commanding his pitches deeper into games. With the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation struggling of late, it could be time to give the hot hand at Triple-A a shot at the big league level. In fact, it is well past time to see Nick Kingham pitching in the Black and Gold.