Nick Kingham signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates last year for an above-slot amount of $480 K, breaking a commitment to pitch at Oregon. The right hander was the only prep pitcher to sign out of the top ten rounds, with guys like Jason Hursh, Dace Kime, Austin Kubitza, and Zach Weiss opting to go to college. So far, Kingham’s signing is looking strong, and worth every penny of the above-slot bonus. In 51 innings this year, he has a 2.65 ERA, along with a 36:11 K/BB ratio.
Last night, the right hander pitched his longest outing of the season, going six innings, and allowing a run on three hits, with one walk and two strikeouts. Kingham has been on fire lately, going at least five innings in his last six starts, and allowing no more than one run in each start. It hasn’t been this way the entire year. He started off the season allowing five runs in three innings. I saw his best start of the year the next time out, when he struck out eight in five innings, allowing a run on five hits. Two starts later he allowed four runs in four innings. However, since that point, Kingham has allowed just five runs in 34 innings.
He hasn’t been issuing a lot of strikeouts, although he’s mostly focused on pitching to contact and working on his fastball command. He’s obvious been effective, as he’s gone five innings every time out in recent starts, never allowing more than a hit per inning, and keeping his walks low. His fastball sits in the low 90s, and has touched 93 in the past. The 6′ 5″, 220 pound right hander could improve on that velocity going forward.
The most impressive thing I saw from Kingham earlier in the year was his curveball. It was previously regarded as below average, but looked very impressive when I saw it, fooling several batters as a strikeout pitch. At this point, Kingham only uses it when he’s ahead in the count. With his big frame, good fastball command, and good secondary stuff, Kingham could become one of the system’s most interesting pitching prospects to watch in the next few years.