Pittsburgh Pirates right-handed pitching prospect pieced together a fairly solid season for Double-A Altoona this year and projects to be part of the major league roster sometime next season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired right-hander Kyle Nicolas during last year’s offseason. He was part of the three-player package that sent Jacob Stallings to the Miami Marlins. Despite being a high-risk arm, Nicolas delivered on his talent this year for the Pirates’ Double-A affiliate, turning in a quality season.
On the surface, his numbers don’t shout “quality.” The right-hander posted a 3.97 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP through 90.2 innings. Sure he had a decent 25.9% strikeout rate and 0.89 HR/9, but he walked 12.1% of the batters he faced. Sure these aren’t necessarily impressive numbers, especially for Double-A, but he wasn’t as bad as the numbers say.
In his third start to the season, Nicolas allowed eight earned runs in just two innings. In those two innings, he also surrendered four home runs. In the 88.2 other innings Nicolas tossed this year, the right-hander had a 3.25 ERA, .51 HR/9, 12.5% walk rate, and 26.7% strikeout rate. Along with that, he had a much improved 3.77 FIP outside of this one outing. There would definitely be more hype surrounding Nicolas had it not been for this one start.
Despite that poor outing, Nicolas showed good stuff throughout the year. His fastball averaged out in the mid-90s but touched the upper-90s. He paired that with a strong slider. There’s been a concern as to whether or not he’d be able to handle a starter’s workload given his lack of a good third pitch, but his curveball looked good enough to be one he can use. His changeup is a work in progress at best right now, and it’s well behind even his curveball.
There’s always been relief risk with Nicolas, even during his time with the Marlins, but you can’t ignore he’s been effective at an upper level of the minor leagues. Nicolas will start 2023 with Triple-A Indianapolis but could certainly find his way to the major leagues sometime during the year. Nicolas is a name Pirates fans should watch next year.