With all the talk surrounding the Ivan Nova signing and the trade rumors involving Jose Quintana, I want to tell you about a man that many people have either forgotten about or are just not familiar with. He was rated the #64 prospect in baseball by Baseball America in 2014, slightly before Jake Odorizzi and shortly after Marcus Stroman. This pitcher is named Nick Kingham.
Kingham, who was drafted in the fourth round as a high school kid in 2010, is a 6’6″, 225 pound righty from Las Vegas, Nevada. He quickly moved through the ranks of the Pirates farm system and reached Indianapolis in 2014 as a 22 year old. During that year, Kingham posted a 3.34 ERA in 159 innings pitched. It was clear that he was knocking on the Pirates door and was poised to become a summer callup for 2015.
As expected, Kingham started the 2015 season with the Indians. He was only able to mustard up 31.1 innings before he was shut down after his May 6 start. After a few weeks, it was determined that he would need Tommy John surgery and so he went under the knife on May 27. This became such a blow to the Pirates organization as they just already lost Jameson Taillon to Tommy John almost exactly one year before.
Nick Kingham obviously missed the rest of the season while missing most of 2016 as well. He did make a return to the diamond later that season and pitched a total of 46 innings. Though he did tally a 2.93 ERA in that stint, most of the success came from the lower minor league levels. Now to be honest, I’m not too interested in what his ERA accumulated but rather his mentality and health.
Maybe it’s possible that he received some really good advice from his current roommate and workout partner who just went through this process in Jameson Taillon, but Kingham said his arm was feeling great due to the great lengths he now takes to better care of his body. After making those 10 starts, Kingham is resuming a normal offseason program to prepare for his first full season since 2014. You can easily expect a Jameson Taillon type return as in he will start in the minors and then cautiously make the jump to the majors when needed. The difference is that the Pirates will not be in dire need to get him there. Hopefully!
So much to build off of and work towards this offseason! First workout in the books, now the offseason roomie @NickKingham moves to h town!
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon19) October 10, 2016
What should excite you about the return of Nick Kingdom is a number of things.
HE’S A WORK HORSE
Before the injury that obviously put him on the sideline, Kingham didn’t miss time due to significant injuries while averaging about 6.1 innings per start in the upper minors. His 6’6″, 225 pound frame with a strong and athletic build also provides him the body to endure a full season of wear and tear.
SOLID CONTROL AND COMMAND
Kingham rose through the ranks and prospect ratings due in particular to his control. He has been known to hit the spots, especially with his 11-5 curveball. It is usually hard for taller pitchers to repeat their delivery and command their pitches, see Tyler Glasnow, but this in fact has been a plus tool for Nick. He has also averaged 2.5 BB/9 over his minor league career. This is very comparable to Jameson Taillon’s career of 2.4 BB/9.
KEEPS THE BALL IN THE PARK
Like many of the young pitchers in the Pirates organization, Nick Kingham has done a superb job preventing home runs. He owns a career 0.6 HR/9 rate which once again matches what Jameson Taillon has had for his career. As a matter of fact, when you take away the year in West Virginia where he gave up an uncharacteristic 15 long balls, the most he gave up in a season was 9. With the pitcher friendly environment at PNC, this should still bode well with the young righty when he makes his debut.
VERY HIGH FLOOR
The drawback to Kingham is that he doesn’t have the stuff to become a very good front line starter. However, he looks very promising to become a solid and reliable middle of the rotation innings eater. He provides a plus fastball that sits in the low 90’s while topping out around 95 MPH along with a plus curveball that has a nice 11-5 break. His changeup is about average but has been an improving pitch. Many people credit Nova’s turn around due to him attacking the strike zone. Well Kingham has done just this as he threw 63.8% of his pitches in 2014 for strikes and 65.8% in 2013. If Kingham does reach his likely projection, he can become a solid #3 type starter who can haul around 200 innings a season. Hey, after a season like last I will certainly take another quality arm to round out this teams rotation depth.
As you can see, there is reason to be excited to watch Kingham progress this year and hopefully make some quality starts in the show. As the Pirates appear to have four pitchers set in a rotation that includes Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Chad Kuhl there is a plethora of players who could fight for that fifth spot. Player such as Drew Hutchison, Tyler Glasnow, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams will all compete unless the Pirates are able to pull off such a deal for Jose Quintana. Due to his injury, all of these pitchers will have the inside track to crack the rotation and/or be the first man up when an injury may happen. However, by season end it is very likely that Nick Kingham is the man holding down a spot in this rotation and giving this offense a chance to win.
What Kingham may also provide is assurance if a major deal goes down to acquire a pitcher like Jose Quintana. With all the hype surrounding pitchers like Glasnow and Keller, having an under the radar pitcher like Kingham around will help alleviate the loss of those prospects. Imagine seeing a rotation in just two years that could feature Cole, Quintana, Taillon, Nova, and Kingham. Not only does Kingham provide the Buccos with options this year, but depending on any major trades he also provides them the depth and stability down the road.