Acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Jacob Stallings trade right-handed pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas brings a power fastball and a high ceiling to the Pittsburgh Pirates
Prior to the start of Major League Baseball’s work stoppage the Pittsburgh Pirates made multiple moves this offseason. The most noteworthy move the team made prior to the transaction freeze was trading Gold Glove Award winning catcher Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins.
In exchange for Stallings the Pittsburgh Pirates received three players. The player with the highest ceiling of the trio the Pirates received from the Marlins could prove to be right-handed pitcher Kyle Nicolas.
Nicolas was selected 61st overall in the 2020 MLB Draft by the Marlins. Nicolas was one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the 2020 draft. His fastball is one that sits in the high 90s and can touch triple digits. FanGraphs gives his fastball a future value grade of 55. It is a pitch that can generate swings and misses while having good carry through the top of the strike zone.
His power fastball is paired with a slider, curveball and changeup. His slider has a FV grade of 55, meaning the pitch, like his fastball, projects as a plus pitch with elite potential. The slider typically sits in the high 80s but will touch 90 MPH. When the pitch is on it has sharp break, which in turns gives opposing hitters fits.
What will prove to set the future for Nicolas with the Pittsburgh Pirates will be his curveball and changeup. If either of these pitches can develop into quality pitches then Nicolas could be a very good starter in MLB. Worst case scenario appears to be these two pitches do not come along and Nicolas develops into a dominant relief pitcher.
In his first taste of professional baseball Nicolas pitched both the High-A and Double-A levels in 2021. He made 21 appearances, 20 starts, between the two levels, pitching 99 innings. Nicolas struck out 138 batters in his 99 innings of work, giving him a healthy 31.9% strikeout rate.
Nicolas did struggle with his control, however. He walked 11.5% of batters faced, hit 5 batters and threw 8 wild pitches. He also allowed 16 home runs which is a bit of a high number for just 99 innings of work. However, he limited opposing batters to just a .215 batting average against. All told, he posted a 4.18 ERA and a 4.61 FIP on the season.
2022 will be a big season for Nicolas and his future. He will likely start the season in the rotation at Double-A Altoona. The biggest thing he will need to show in 2022 is improved control, which could come with his curveball and changeup improving. If Nicolas fails to improve his control in 2022, then he will likely solidify himself as a reliever long-term. Even if it does prove to come as a reliever, Nicolas can have a high ceiling with the Pittsburgh Pirates.