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Nick Kingham will be back with the Pirates soon

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Now is a good time to capitalize on low value for a good pitcher.

St Louis Cardinals v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

I know this one is a bit late given the fact that Nick Kingham was in the MLB for three weeks and is now back down with Indianapolis, but I feel strongly that he will be up before the end of July and he could be acquired at a discount now.

History

Drafted in 2010 out of Sierra Vista High School Las Vegas in the fourth round (117th overall), Nick had limited exposure in the rookie league that year, pitching three scoreless innings. 2011 would bring more of a sample as he would go 6-2 with an ERA of 2.15 across 71 innings pitched in low A. 2012 brought him to A where he saw a rise in his K per nine (8.29) but also his BB per nine (2.55) and HR per nine (1.06) not to mention his ERA (4.39) and win percentage (43% down from 75% the prior year). While there were a few hiccups rising into each level—most notably 2014 where he went 1-7 with a 6.85 K per nine and 3.17 BB per nine—he has risen to the challenge at each new level.

Major League debut

On April 29th he was called up where he had one of the most impressive first starts of any rookie. He pitched seven innings against the Cardinals with just one hit allowed to Paul DeJong late in the 6th inning. He struck out nine and issued no walks. In comparison, his second start against the Brewers was a disappointment as he pitched 5 1/3 innings, allowing four earned runs striking out seven and issuing one walk.

When you think about it though, that’s not that terrible of a start in general, let alone the second ever start for Kingham at the professional level. His third start was against the Padres where he struck out five and walked one with three earned runs over six innings. He was sent down earlier this week with a major league line of 18 innings pitched, two wins, one loss, seven earned runs for a 3.44 ERA, 21 strikeouts and just two walks.

What to expect

He relies heavily on a fastball that sits between 90 and 95 MPH (using it around 60% of the time), which he had robust success with in his first two outings but it became a root of his issues with his third start with the Padres.

He uses a slurve (a curve ball grip that is thrown as if it were a slider – velocity-wise) around 18% of the time. This was the main reason for his success in his first outing and he was bumped around a bit in his second start after teams had a chance to study it.

The curveball is used 8% of the time and is an above average pitch that was safer for him to use as he felt more comfortable using it over the years.

Finally the changeup was used 11% of the time, this betrayed him in his second start against the Brewers and is a nice 4th pitch to own but nothing that will really trouble or confuse an average hitter.

In the offseason he made some changes, adding the slurve to his repertoire which threw the Cardinals for a frenzy in his first start. However, once there was film he had to fall back to his curveball, which is generally his strongest pitch after his fastball. It’s nice that he has 4-5 pitches to work from, his fastball and his slurve/curveballs are his strongest ones with the occasional slider or changeup to fall back on. The wide range aids his strikeout ability as he has batters chasing balls outside the zone at an above average rate of 30.4%. The one somewhat downside is the solid contact that batters make on pitches inside the strike zone (93%). All in all he keeps his command strong with a 48% zone rate (average of around 45%).

Future and Fantasy impact

Yesterday the Bucs sent Nick to Triple-A, activating Josh Harrison off the 10-day DL in a corresponding move. Manager Clint Hurdle said that he expects Nick to come back up if an opportunity should arise. I take this to mean that the two clearest paths are either Joe Musgrove getting hurt again or if there is a precipitous decline from Chad Kuhl, Ivan Nova or Steven Brault, all of whom have a 4.00+ ERA. Like many of the other pitchers we have been highlighting, Nick really stepped it up to the next level in his time in the Majors, showing better strikeout ability, fewer issued walks, and generally stronger command than previously showed in Triple-A. Nick probably overachieved and we can expect around 80% of what he gave us, which is still a respectable expectation of around:

  • 6 innings pitched per outing
  • 8 strikeouts per start
  • 2 walks
  • 3.00 ERA
  • 65% chance of a win on any given start

I will be adding him to the watch list or maybe even picking him up in a week or two and stashing him on my bench. Why wait a week? I anticipate many teams will either drop him now or wait a few days then drop him when a different option comes available, especially in 12+ team leagues.