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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Draft Prospect Watch: Kyle Funkhouser Outduels Nathan Kirby in Big Weekend Match-Up

Today we have some starts from a few of the best college pitchers, plus two high school pitchers of note. Yesterday we looked at some of the top college starting pitchers and had notes on a few of the best draft-eligible prep players. The draft begins on June 8th and the Pittsburgh Pirates have the 19th and 32nd overall picks. The Pirates will have the 11th highest draft bonus pool.

The main event on Saturday was the match-up in Virginia that saw two top teams sending out their top pitchers. Kyle Funkhouser and Louisville visited Nathan Kirby and Virginia. Both pitchers will likely go in the top 20 picks and they both pitched like it for the first six innings. Funkhouser picked up the win in the 8-1 game, going 7.2 innings. He allowed one run on five hits and four walks, while striking out five batters. Kirby matched him through six, then things fell apart. He allowed five earned runs in the seventh inning and finished with six runs over 6.1 innings. He struck out seven batters.

Funkhouser has a 2.22 ERA in eight starts, with 54 strikeouts in 52.2 innings. He is holding batters to a .202 BAA and he has not allowed a home run. Kirby has a 1.94 ERA in 51 innings, with a 23:69 BB/SO ratio and a .232 BAA.

Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler(pictured above) had some issues in his team’s 11-7 win. He gave up four runs on nine hits and two walks in six innings. He threw two wild pitches and struck out two batters. Buehler recorded ten outs on ground balls. In 29.1 innings, he has 28 strikeouts and a .265 BAA. Shortstop Dansby Swanson went 1-for-4 with a walk and two runs scored. He is hitting .381 and has scored 46 runs in 32 games.

Kentucky had Kyle Cody pitch in relief on Saturday and his outing didn’t go well. He has been struggling this year and it continued as a reliever. He gave up three earned runs in two innings, allowing three hits, one walk and one hit batter. He now has a 5.87 ERA in 38.1 innings. Cody is still an intriguing arm due to his size and velocity, but he has likely pitched his way out of first round consideration.

Cal Poly Pomona’s Cody Ponce faced UC San Diego on Saturday. He went five innings, allowing one run(unearned) on four hits and a walk, with five strikeouts. He threw 81 pitches. Ponce missed three weeks due to shoulder fatigue and he is slowly returning to his normal pitch count. Last weekend we included a video of his first start back.

**Jacob Nix from IMG Academy went five innings on Saturday, allowing one run on five hits and a walk. He struck out four batters. Nathan Rode was at the game at had Nix sitting low-90’s early, finishing up his outing 89-91 MPH. Nix was drafted in the fifth round last year by the Astros and agreed to an over-slot deal, but when Brady Aiken didn’t sign his deal, the Astros didn’t have cap room for Nix. Aiken also attends IMG, but was shut down after 13 pitches and he required Tommy John surgery.

**An intriguing name for Pirates fans to follow is 6’5″ righty Mike Nikorak, who is out of Stroudsburg, Pa. and can hit 97 MPH. He made his season debut on the mound on Thursday in front of 30+ scouts. Nikorak was on a strict pitch limit in his first game, so those scouts saw just two scoreless innings. He was sitting 92-95 MPH according to The Morning Call. Nikorak walked two, struck out one and allowed one hit. He went 5-for-5 at the plate, slugging two homers, but his future is on the mound.

**The Orlando Sentinel has an article on top prep pitcher Juan Hillman and how former Major League pitcher Tom Gordon is helping him towards his goal of being a big league pitcher. I’ve included a video from Big League Futures of Hillman, who was mentioned among the “others to watch” in our prep pitchers draft preview.

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John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.


Pirates Prospects has been independently owned and operated since 2009, entirely due to the support of our readers. The site is now completely free, funded entirely by user support. By supporting the site, you are supporting independent writers, one of the best Pittsburgh Pirates communities online, and our mission for the most complete Pirates coverage available.

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I’m a big Pirates fan! Very supportive and very positive. My question is how do you make decisions on the pitching staff this late knowing you have Morton who is not even close to being ready? What the heck happened there?


David: He had off-season hip surgery and was rehabbing. I think this hip problem has been long standing, therefore the pitching coaches tried to adjust his mechanics/arm slot to reduce the possibility of a similar type of injury in the future. The results have been mixed and Charlie wants to return to his old mechanics, but that takes time. He has been placed on the Disabled List and will probably have to go back to extended ST and spend about 2-4 weeks getting it all back together again.

Thankfully, the Rotation is deep and it will be Liriano, Cole, Burnett, Locke, and Worley.


Thank you but I do understand all of that. I’m trying to understand why it took until the last game before they realised he wasn’t even close. Shouldn’t they have known that last week when the set the rotation? I guess I’ll assume that maybe he just isn’t as far off as what he looked yesterday.


Got it. Your saying that they knew where he was and they were making their final decision on him and the rotation based on his final outing. Just concerned that this blindsided them because it blindsided me. Never seen a team announce their starting 5 and then a few days later make a change unless a new injury accrued. That wasn’t the case here.

Joe Sweetnich

A couple of things happened with Morton that contributed to the situation. First, of course, he had the hip surgery. But he has been throwing since mid-January so that’s not the issue. The second is that Jim Benedict (Pirate’s pitching coordinator) had suggested changes to Charlie’s delivery to help ease future burden on his hip. Morton has been working with those changes since he started throwing again. He just hasn’t had the repetitions needed to adopt the new mechanics in his delivery and recently tried to go back to his old delivery, so he’s all messed up. He needs time to do whatever he ends up doing.

I feel partially responsible, as I watched his kid at Pirate City one day when he was working out (he lives in Bradenton and I in Venice, FL). I asked him how he could just change his delivery mechanics and expect to master them quickly. Also since he’s effective when healthy why he even needed to change. He said Benny (Benedict) had some ideas and he was willing to try. So I blame myself for putting doubt in his head, and if you know Charlie, being a very introspective kind of guy, his head was probably spinning.

I’m sure he’ll be fine with more work on whatever delivery he adopts once he fully adopts that delivery.

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