Pittsburgh Pirates: Prospects That Could Be On The Opening Day Roster

These three Pirates prospects could make the team's Opening Day roster.
San Diego Padres v Detroit Tigers
San Diego Padres v Detroit Tigers / Duane Burleson/GettyImages
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Kyle Nicolas

Kyle Nicolas was acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Jacob Stallings trade. The hard-throwing righty was moved to the bullpen in the second half of the 2023 season. Although it took him a while for him to get used to his new role, he proved to be a talented reliever and one that could slot into the bullpen as soon as next season.

Now, Nicolas' season did not pitch well for a good portion of the season. His first 83.1 innings yielded a 5.92 ERA, 1.65 WHIP, and 5.15 FIP. While he struck out 26.5% of the batters he faced, he also walked a ton of batters with an 11.8% walk rate and gave up a handful of home runs, working to a 1.61 HR/9. But he caught on a hot streak after these struggles.

Nicolas' final 15 innings of the season saw him work to a 1.20 ERA, 2.64 WHIP, and 0.80 WHIP. His strikeout rate rose significantly to 41.4%, while his HR/9 also fell off a cliff to just 0.60. His walk rate was still poor, but his 10.3% rate was a slight improvement from his first handful of innings.

This strong hot streak helped him get to the big leagues, but his first game was abysmal. He allowed six earned runs while only making one out. After that, he would pitch five more frames but only allowed one ER, struck out seven, walked two, and allowed two to reach base via a walk. Nicolas' stuff in the bigs looked great, as he sat 97 MPH with a ton of carry through the zone. His slider also had above-average movement. He only used his curveball eight times, but it was an effective offering with a ton of drop.

Nicolas definitely deserves an extended look in the bigs next year. His stuff in his short MLB look was outstanding. He has closer potential but will likely open his MLB career as a middle reliever. But I would not be surprised if he ended the year as one of the Pirates' top set-up options.