Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Underrated Player to Watch at Each Level

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Triple-A Indianapolis - RHP Kyle Nicolas

Triple-A Indianapolis has a ton of very underrated players who will likely start the year there. Overall, Indy’s roster is very deep. I’m sure there are plenty of under-the-radar players you could name at Triple-A, but Kyle Nicolas is the player I want to focus on today.

Nicolas was acquired in the Jacob Stallings trade. A second-round pick by the Miami Marlins in 2020, Nicolas was a talented arm coming out of Ball State but came with apparent risk. Last season he spent the entire season at Double-A Altoona piecing together a quality season.

In 90.2 innings, Nicolas owned a solid 3.97 ERA, 4.30 FIP, and 1.30 WHIP. While he had a 12.1% walk rate, he struck out just over a quarter of the batters he faced with a 25.9% strikeout rate. Nicolas had a 0.89 HR/9 rate, which was above the league average rate of 1.15-per-9. Overall, there wasn’t anything terrible (maybe outside of his walk rate), but nothing over-the-top special either.

So what reason is there to take notice of Nicolas? The first is that he has a high ceiling. He’s a hard-throwing right-hander who consistently sits in the mid-to-upper-90s. Along with his smoking four-seamer, he throws an elite slider with an average curveball. There’s certainly some risk, given his curveball is barely average, but if he can develop it just a little more, it could easily make him a starting pitcher.

The other reason is his numbers aren’t fully reflective of his season. On April 23rd, Nicolas allowed eight earned runs in just two innings on nine hits and four home runs. This was just one of three times he allowed more than three earned runs and the only time he let in more than four. If you take this one outing out of his season, you have a pitcher who had a 3.25 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 0.51 HR/9, and 1.22 WHIP in 88.2 innings.

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If this one start doesn’t happen, he, no doubt, gets more attention from Pirate fans. He’s a high-ceiling pitcher who could end up in the starting rotation sometime this year. The worst case scenario is the Pirates stick him in the bullpen. Either way, Nicolas is definitely overshadowed by his fellow rotation mates, Quinn Priester, Luis Ortiz, and Mike Burrows.