Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Kingham, Escobar, Hightower

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates received some solid starting pitching last night in the minor leagues.  Nick Kingham, Luis Escobar, and Scooter Hightower all threw the ball very well.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have climbed back into the division race this season mainly because of their young pitching.  Former pitching prospects like Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl have pitched very well over the last few months.  Now neither of these players were as highly touted as Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, but yet they are giving the team a chance to win every time out.

This is an important trend that the Bucs need to continue.  They need to continue producing not just top of the rotation arms, but also just arms that can come up and pitch efficiently. Last night they had a few pitchers throw in the minors that may represent solid middle of the rotation arms at one point or another.

Nick Kingham

Nick Kingham had his best start of the season last night for Triple-A Indianapolis.  Kingham represents the highest upside of the three pitchers.  At one point he was out performing Jameson Taillon at each minor league level.  Because of this, he found himself rated as a top 100 prospect.  However, after receiving Tommy-John surgery, Kingham has not shown the complete upside that he showed in the past.  Still, he is working back and should be a big part of the Pittsburgh Pirates rotation very soon.

In last night’s start, he threw a complete game and only allowed one run on 85 pitches.  He limited Syracuse to just two hits and punched out eight batters.  The best thing to see is that he struck out eight hitters.  One big knock on him since returning from surgery is that he has not been striking out as many batters as he did in the past, so it is very encouraging to see him pitch an efficient complete game, but also strike out a good amount of batters.  His ERA is now 3.70 on the season and he has only given up three earned runs over his last four starts.

Luis Escobar

Luis Escobar finds himself rated around 16-20 on most prospect lists.  He has a power fastball and has had a solid season, but has had some hiccups along the way.  He started out the season striking a ton of hitters and simply dominating opposing lineups.  However, as dominant as he was in the first month and a half of the season, he found himself really struggle through the end of May and all of June.

Last night, Escobar took the ball against Hagerstown of the Nationals organization.  He pitched six strong innings and only gave up two earned runs.  While he did walk three batters, he got out of trouble by striking out eight batters.  When Escobar is striking batters out he is at his best.  Earlier in the year when he was struggling it was because he was walking batters and lost his ability to strikeout hitters.  Over his last few starts, Escobar has seemed to find himself once again.  He has only given up four earned runs and has struck out 33 batters over his last four starts. The biggest question for Escobar going forward will be his ability to command his pitches and be consistent.

Scooter Hightower

The last pitcher is a lesser known prospect by the name of Scooter Hightower.  Hightower was a 15th round pick in 2015 out of Junior College.  Last night he threw seven innings, the deepest in a game he has gone all season, and he allowed only one run.  He now has a 2.37 earned run average on the season.  Currently he is at Short-A West Virginia, but he most likely will jump to High-A next season.

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All three pitching prospects are at different levels, but all three are having strong seasons.  This is actually a good thing.  Neal Huntington preaches about setting up a pipeline of talent that gives them a chance to win over multiple years.  Seeing the Bucs producing arms at all levels of the minors will help this organizational philosophy.