Nick Kingham is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month For June

Each week we run our “Top Performers” series, looking at the best pitchers and hitters from the previous week. We also recap each month in order to award the Pitcher and Player of the month. Below are the average pitching Game Scores* in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ farm system from the month of June. The rankings include every pitcher who made at least four starts for a Pirates’ minor league affiliate, with no limitations on whether the starting pitcher has prospect eligibility. The Game Score listed is the average of all of their Game Scores for the month.

*Game Score is a stat created by Bill James used to determine how good a pitcher’s outing really was. The formula for game score is simple: Start with 50 points, add one point for every out recorded, add two for each inning completed after the fourth, add one point for each strikeout. Subtract two points for each hit, four points for each earned run, two points for each unearned run and one point for each walk. There tends to be an advantage for pitchers who can go longer in the game, as they have more time to pile up strikeouts, while getting bonus points for extra innings beyond the fourth frame.

Pitcher of the Month

This was about as tough of a decision as we’ve ever had for the pitcher of the month on the site. Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow both had amazing months, putting up unreal numbers at their respective levels. Glasnow had an 0.70 ERA and a 29:14 K/BB ratio in 25.2 innings in Bradenton. He would have had better numbers, but rain cancelled a start that saw him give up just one earned run on one hit in four innings, with no walks and seven strikeouts. Kingham also had amazing numbers, with a 1.07 ERA in 33.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. The surprising thing was that his one start in Double-A this month actually brought his numbers down. He had an 0.34 ERA in four starts with Indianapolis, along with a 20:5 K/BB ratio in 26.2 innings.

There was some consideration for a tie, but we wanted one winner selected. After probably way too much analysis for a monthly award that doesn’t have any actual reward, Nick Kingham ended up being the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for the month of June.

There were a few things in Kingham’s favor. The biggest thing was that he had his success at a higher level. His playing time in Triple-A matched the playing time for Glasnow in Bradenton, and the numbers from Kingham were better. If Kingham didn’t have the one start in Altoona to begin the month, this would have been a much easier decision. It also helped that Kingham’s FIP for the month was about a run lower than Glasnow’s FIP, showing that Kingham was relying less on his fielders for help.

Glasnow was absolutely dominant this month, beating Kingham in a lot of categories, including strikeouts (10.2 K/9 vs 7.0), and batting average against (.122 vs .195). What killed Glasnow was the walk rate, especially with his last outing where he walked four batters in 2.2 innings. There was also some debate over his cancelled start. Officially, that doesn’t count in his numbers, yet it was another example of how he was actually a dominant pitcher this month.

The decision could have gone either way, but Kingham’s FIP, higher level, and the strong run during his time in Triple-A all led to him getting the honors this month. Since moving up to Indianapolis, he has given up just one earned run on 15 hits in 26.2 innings. Control was a problem for him earlier in the year, but he seems to have fixed that problem, giving up just five walks in this span. He’s also striking out guys, with 20 strikeouts in Triple-A so far.

If Kingham keeps this up, he could end up in the majors by the end of the season. Glasnow could also be in line for a promotion soon, possibly getting the call to Altoona after a few more starts. With Jameson Taillon out, these are the top two active pitching prospects in the system. It’s encouraging to see both of them having so much success.

Minor League Affiliates

Here were the Pitchers of the Month for each minor league affiliate. The short-season affiliates didn’t have enough playing time this month. We will begin recapping them starting next month.

Indianapolis Indians (AAA) – Nick Kingham, RHP (0.34 ERA, 20:5 K/BB, 26.2 IP)

Altoona Curve (AA) – Joely Rodriguez, LHP (4.22 ERA, 16:8 K/BB, 32 IP)

Bradenton Marauders (A+) – Tyler Glasnow, RHP (0.70 ERA, 29:14 K/BB, 25.2 IP)

West Virginia Power (A) – Yhonathan Barrios, RHP (2.40 ERA, 15:2 K/BB, 15 IP)

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Spa City

Kingham and Glasnow are different types of pitchers. I love Kingham’s control. In the past few years, fastball velocity and strikeouts have been increasing dramatically, and pitching prospects are generally lightly regarded unless they throw 97 mph and strikeout a batter per inning. But pitchers can still have success if they limit walks and HR and generate ground balls, even if they don’t post tacky K rates. Pitchers who limit walks should be the next “market inefficiency.” We landed Vance Worley (essentially) free for this reason. Kingham could surprise people and turn into a prominent starter (what people have been calling a “number 2” for some reason) if he keeps this up.

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