What Should The Pittsburgh Pirates Do With Nick Kingham?


The Pittsburgh Pirates have a decision to make about one of their young right-handed pitchers this offseason

During the offseason every MLB team has plenty of decisions to make. Who should they target in free agency? Who should they target in the trade market? What kind off contract offers should they make to free agents? And what about trade offers to other teams?

Teams must also decide what to do with players already on their 40 man roster. This includes deciding what to do with players that are out of options. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, one such player is pitcher Nick Kingham.

Kingham made his MLB debut in 2018 and did so in a big way. In his first career start, he retired the first 20 batters he faced against the St. Louis Cardinals. When the dust settled, Kingham had allowed just a single while striking out nine Red Birds in seven scoreless innings of work.

After this start, however, things got more difficult for Kingham. The 26-year-old righty owned a 5.21 ERA and a 5.65 FIP in 76 innings pitched last season. His big issue stemmed from the long ball. While Kingham owned just a 7.6% walk rate to go with a strong 20.2% strikeout rate last season, he was plagued by the long ball allowing a whopping 2.13 HR/9.

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Now, the Pirates must decide what they want to do with Kingham. Last season Kingham was granted an extra minor league option due to missing time in the minor leagues due to Tommy John Surgery. This allowed the Pirates to option Kingham to Triple-A to start the 2018 season.

However, Kingham is now out of options. As a result, he can not begin the 2019 season in the minor leagues. This leaves Neal Huntington, Clint Hurdle and the Pittsburgh Pirates with a decision to make.

Throughout his minor league career Kingham was a starting pitcher. During his first taste of MLB action in 2018, Kingham appeared in 18 games for the Pirates with 15 of them being starts. However, barring a change, he will not be in the Pirate rotation to start the 2019 season.

As things stand the Pirates will open the 2019 campaign with a starting rotation of Jameson Taillon, Chris Archer, Trevor Williams, Joe Musgrove, and Ivan Nova. So, unless there is an injury between now and Opening Day or the Pirates trade Nova without adding another starter there is no spot in the rotation for Kingham.

This leaves the Pirates with a few options for Kingham.

One option would be to transition Kingham to a role in the bullpen. Kingham could enter the 2019 season as the team’s long man/emergency sixth starter. This is an overlooked, yet important role for a MLB team.

A second option would be to designate Kingham for assignment. The Pirates could always DFA the righty and hope he sneaks through waivers. However, the odds of this may not be high. While Kingham did struggle in 2018, at times he flashed what made him a top 100 prospect before battling the injury bug. Due to this, there is a good chance a team would take a flier on him.

Finally, the team could wait until the end of Spring Training to make their decision. The Bucs could wait to see how things shake out in Bradenton before deciding to make Kingham part of their Opening Day pitching staff or not.

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This offseason the Pirates have plenty of decisions to make. One of these decisions is what to do with Nick Kingham. With Kingham being out of options, the Pirates must decide to keep Kingham this offseason or not. And if they do, what role will he play in 2019?