Three Underrated Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects to Watch in 2023

Altoona Curve starting pitcher Kyle Nicolas throws against the Akron RubberDucks during the first inning of an MiLB baseball game on Friday.Curve Nicholas
Altoona Curve starting pitcher Kyle Nicolas throws against the Akron RubberDucks during the first inning of an MiLB baseball game on Friday.Curve Nicholas /
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Pittsburgh Pirates
BRADENTON, FLORIDA – MARCH 16: Kyle Nicolas #95 of the Pittsburgh Pirates poses for a picture during the 2022 Photo Day at LECOM Park on March 16, 2022 in Bradenton, Florida. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates should start these three pitching prospects at Triple-A Indianapolis to start the 2023 campaign.

The Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A team will look stacked next season. Quinn Priester, Nick Gonzales, Endy Rodriguez, Malcom Nunez, and Henry Davis may all start the 2023 campaign at Triple-A Indianapolis. This gives the Pirates’ 2023 major league team a reasonably bright outlook, as many of these players could make their debuts sometime next year.

But plenty of other talented names get overlooked when glancing at the Pirates’ system. Triple-A may have high-end talent at the top, but it will be a deep roster with plenty of names the Pirates may see sometime during the ‘23 campaign. Let’s look at some underrated pitching prospects who will open in 2023 with the team’s Triple-A affiliate.

Kyle Nicolas

Kyle Nicolas is the best prospect we’ll look at today, though that doesn’t mean the other guys aren’t worthwhile. Nicolas wrapped up his first season in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization, putting up a 3.97 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. While Nicolas had a healthy 25.9% strikeout rate and 0.89 HR/9, he had a 12.1% walk rate. On the surface, Nicolas’ numbers aren’t awe-inspiring. An ERA just a few ticks below 4.00 and FIP above 4.30 doesn’t seem very good, but in Nicolas’ defense, his third game of the season bloated his bottom line.

In that start, Nicolas surrendered eight earned on four home runs in just two innings of work. Those eight earned runs make up 20% of the total ER he gave up all season. Nicolas has a 3.25 ERA, .51 HR/9 rate, and 3.77 FIP outside of that one game. Nicolas surrendered more than three earned runs in just three of his 24 total outings and one or zero ER in half of his games.

Nicolas displayed a mid-90s fastball for the Curve, and he often reached back for more velocity. He also throws a wipe-out slider that sits in the upper-80s and tops out at 90 MPH. The concern for Nicolas is how he would fare in the upper levels of the minor leagues, as he only previously displayed two above-average pitches. However, his curveball has been a quality offering. It’s a distinct pitch that he can separate from his slider. Though his change-up is not reliable. It’s still ways off from being even an average pitch. But he still has three, distinct, average or better offerings between his fastball, slider, and curveball, in terms of movement and velocity.

Nicolas was arguably the best player the Pirates received in the Jacob Stallings trade, and he’s shown a ton of talent at Double-A. It’s easy to overlook his performance when Quinn Priester dominated once he returned. Nicolas has the chance to be yet another pitcher who performs better than what the rankings say.