With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to watch for a MLB promotion in 2015 will be Nick Kingham. The right-handed pitcher made the jump to Indianapolis last year, and was optioned to the level a few weeks ago, where he will pitch out of the rotation. Kingham could be an option for the Pirates by mid-season, after they go through early season options like Jeff Locke, Casey Sadler, Clayton Richard, and Radhames Liz.
On Tuesday, Kingham went up against the Phillies’ farm system, and had a very specific approach. He was focusing heavily on his two-seam fastball, throwing it much more often than the four-seam pitch he usually works with. His fastball was sitting 92-95 MPH, although the upper end might have been the four-seam.
“It’s coming a long way, it’s still not to where it needs to be, but you can’t get better unless you throw it,” Kingham said of the pitch. “Today was the first day I threw it consistently.”
Kingham said he threw about 20-25 two-seam fastballs. He’s focusing on improving the pitch now, so that he has it as a situational pitch, and something to mix in with the four-seam fastball. He’s not going to become a two-seam guy in the future, but the focus on the new pitch should help him increase his ground ball rates and become more effective against upper level guys. This isn’t an uncommon approach for the Pirates. They’ve taken a lot of guys who have had good stuff, put a bigger focus on the two-seam, and saw those pitchers reach a new level thanks to an increased ground ball rate. Kingham’s ground ball rate last year was 45%.
Along with the focus on the two-seamer, Kingham was throwing a few curve balls toward the end of his outing, trying to get the pitch sharp for the beginning of the season. The video below features an at-bat where he threw three straight curves, eventually getting a strikeout. The video also features more of Kingham from Tuesday’s outing, and his comments on what he is working on at this point in camp.