Pittsburgh Pirates 2015 Top Prospects: #6 – Nick Kingham

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To recap the countdown so far:

20. Luis Heredia, RHP
19. JaCoby Jones, SS
18. Willy Garcia, OF
17. Clay Holmes, RHP
16. Gage Hinsz, RHP
15. Trey Supak, RHP
14. Cody Dickson, LHP
13. John Holdzkom, RHP
12. Adrian Sampson, RHP
11. Harold Ramirez, OF
10. Elias Diaz, C
9. Cole Tucker, SS
8. Mitch Keller, RHP
7. Alen Hanson, 2B

We continue the countdown with the number 6 prospect, Nick Kingham.

6. Nick Kingham, RHP

Nick Kingham could reach the majors during the 2015 season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)
Nick Kingham could reach the majors during the 2015 season. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Nick Kingham had strong results in Altoona during the second half of the 2013 season. Because of those results, it was a surprise to see him return to the level at the start of the 2014 season. It was even more surprising to see him struggle with his control early in the season, since his control was one of his biggest strengths up to that point. Kingham was a bit too hittable in both stops in Altoona, but settled down by mid- season in 2014, and also saw the control issues disappear, earning him a promotion to Indianapolis.

While he was with Indianapolis, Kingham put up much better numbers. However, this was an inverse of his time in Altoona. He started off strong, with a 1.62 ERA over his first 39 innings, then struggled during the final two months of the season, posting a 5.14 ERA in his final 49 innings, while seeing the control problems creep up again. He was slated to go to the Arizona Fall League, but was held back due to innings.

Kingham throws a fastball that sits 92-95 MPH, touching 97-98. The fastball is normally thrown with good command and good movement, thrown on a downward plane with pinpoint command. He throws a curveball and a changeup, and scouts are mixed on which is the better off-speed pitch, but both can grade as above-average. The curve looks like a fastball out of the hand, then features a late drop, leading to swings and misses or ground balls.

The stuff is good enough to get Kingham to the majors, and eventually lead to him becoming a strong middle of the rotation starter who can throw 200 innings per year. Before that can happen, he will need to iron out his command issues in the upper levels. He should return to Indianapolis for the start of the 2015 season, and could make the majors by mid-season. If he makes the successful jump to the majors, he has the ability to be a fixture in the Pirates rotation for years, even if everyone from the Cole/Glasnow/Taillon group also works out.

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  • Kingham stands to be the first of the current wave of high-upside, prep pitchers to graduate to the MLB. His success or failure will give outsiders a good idea about the effectiveness of the Pirates’ pitcher development strategy.

    • This is a good point. For all the talk of how successful the Pirates are at developing pitchers, they haven’t actually been very successful at developing pitchers. Yet.

      Brandon Cumpton is the most successful Huntington draft pick to date, unless you want to argue developing a 1.1 pick is something to brag about.

    • Travis Persinger
      February 1, 2015 11:18 am

      I don’t think the failure (if it were to happen, fingers crossed it doesn’t) would bring any attention to outsiders. Much like the Oakland A’s, Tampa Bay, etc…the outsiders only will hear of the Pirates superstar(s) and then at the trade deadline Jim Bowden and every other talking head tell the outsiders the Pirates should sell the farm on one 4 month rental player.

  • If it is really true that Pirate pitchers focus on fastballs and pitch location in the minors, and that they generally improve their K% as they start to use more off-speed pitches, then I hope that means Kingham is likely to improve his K% over the next couple of years… He seems to have very good command and velocity, so if his off-speed pitches develop and allow him to increase his K% then his ceiling could be higher than a “#3” starter (whatever than even means). I anticipate that Kingham will have a very impressive career.

    • Based on what I’ve seen here, The Pirates want them to command of their fastball in the lower minor league levels. I remember looking and seeing Cole would have a bad game at AAA then I would find out they made him concentrate on a secondary pitch that day

      • Not to change the subject of pitchers but I always thought that’s what made Glasnow so impressive. Everyone knew his fastball was coming and still he racked up the K’s at a crazy rate. I keep hearing that Kingham’s strikeout rate dropped. Is that a big concern or is it a function of him working on different things?

        • I just looked in 201 between Bradenton/Altoona, Kingman had 144 k’s in 143 innings, for 2014 in Altoona/Indy he had 119 k’s in 159 innings. Not sure it could be he faced better competition.

          • Drop in strikeouts and increase in walks have both been called Tommy John indicators.

            Although you could probably correlate just about anything with Tommy John at this stage.

        • This. The guy just has not given up many hits and you know many of the lower-level guys are sitting on fastball, probably with the plan of making him throw off-speed stuff for strikes to get them out. If he can just get his walks down to 3.5/9 or less he could be awesome.

      • With no research to back me up and just going by looking at so many minor league stats over time, it seems that soft-tossers with great control and stats usually start to see them come down to earth in AA. For the hard throwers with high walk rates that dominate the minors, they seem to struggle once they get to AAA. Kingham is the exception to this so far as he throws pretty hard but struggled at Altoona a bit. I think his upcoming 4-5 months in AAA will tell us a lot about what he can become in the majors.

  • Here we go again….I hope he comes up in the Nick of time.

  • When Nick Kingham is ranked #6 in your prospect rankings you know you’re set up pretty damn well as an organization.

  • I’ve been a Kingham fan for years.

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