Pittsburgh Pirates pitching prospect Kyle Nicolas had a quality campaign at Double-A Altoona, but when could we see him reach the major leagues?
Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Kyle Nicolas capped off a solid 2022 campaign at Double-A Altoona. The right-hander was acquired as part of the Jacob Stallings trade. A former second-round selection, Nicolas was a risk/reward type arm. He has powerful stuff but so-so command. But Nicolas’ 2022 season was decent, so when could we see him reach the major leagues in 2023?
Nicolas pitched a grand total of 90.2 innings, posting a 3.97 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. The right-hander kept up his healthy strikeout rate from 2021, sitting at 25.9% this season. He also had a quality 0.89 HR/9 rate, though his walk rate of 12.1% was nothing great. But, these numbers are inflated.
Nicolas gave up 40 total earned runs, but just one outing made up 20% of those runs. In his third outing of the season, Nicolas allowed eight earned runs on four home runs and nine total hits. If you take out that one start, Nicolas has a 3.25 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 0.51 HR/9, 26.7% strikeout rate, and 12.3% walk rate. Had Nicolas put up those kinds of numbers at Double-A, there would be a whole lot more prospect buzz around him. He’s a good example of how a bad start can derail numbers completely.
Despite being drafted in only 2020, Nicolas will be heading into his age-24 campaign when 2023 rolls around. This year, the big concern for the right-hander is how he would fare against upper-level batters. There was a real chance he would top out as just a reliever, and while that risk is still there, it’s less likely after this year.
Nicolas has two elite pitches with a mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider. However, his curveball looks like it could be a reliable offering now. The command issues are present but can be overlooked if he doesn’t let the walks affect his performance too much. His changeup is not an offering he should rely on, but his first three pitches give him the chance to start.
If Nicolas continues to perform well when he reaches Triple-A next season, it might not be long until we see him in the major leagues. He could be looking to get starts with the big league club by the time June rolls around. Nicolas, along with other youngsters like Roansy Contreras, Mike Burrows, Luis Ortiz, Mitch Keller, and Quinn Priester, could all be starting rotation options for the Pirates by the time the all-star break rolls around.