The State College Spikes beat the Batavia Mud Dogs 7-5 tonight, thanks to a five run fifth inning by the Spikes, and a strong start from 2010 4th round pick Nick Kingham. Kingham wasn’t the only one who had a strong outing, with Stetson Allie also throwing a dominant inning in relief. Seeing two of my top ten prospects in the system pitch in one game is always nice, but seeing both pitchers reinforce why they’re in my top ten is always a welcome sight. Here are reports on Kingham, Allie, and a few other players from tonight’s game.
I’ve seen Kingham twice this year with State College, and each time came away impressed. The first outing I saw he struck out eight batters in five innings. This time around he pitched five shutout innings, allowing one hit, two walks, and striking out three. The solo hit was a soft looping single in to right field, and didn’t really knock Kingham off his game. Coming in to the start, Kingham had a run of ten straight outings where he allowed one or fewer runs. Tonight was his tenth straight start where he pitched five or more innings with one or fewer runs.
“He ended the season about as appropriately as he could end it,” Spikes manager Kimera Bartee said of Kingham’s performance.
Kingham got off to a great start in the first inning, giving up one walk, but recovering with a grounder up the middle, which was fielded by Alen Hanson for a 4-3 double play. That grounder was one of many on the night for the right hander, who had a 7:2 ground out to air out ratio. He came back out in the second with another strong inning, closing it out by blowing a high 94 MPH fastball past Batavia left fielder Reggie Williams.
He was sitting mostly 91-93 MPH in the first two innings, touching 94 that one time. In the third he fell to 89-91 MPH, touching 92 once. He was around 90-91 in the fourth inning, giving up his only single on an opposite field hit off his curveball, which looked a bit rusty at times tonight. He closed out the strong outing with a six pitch fifth inning, ending his night with just 60 pitches.
“He was going five, no matter what,” Bartee said. “He probably could have went another one or two more innings, but his development. Let’s leave with a good taste in our mouths and let him go ahead and enjoy it. Let’s go to instructional leagues and let’s get even better so we can go to work come April next year.”
Kingham did a great job with his fastball command tonight. Not only did he have some nice velocity on the pitch (and this was the second time I’ve seen him with that velocity), but he was locating it well, pitching to both sides of the plate, and setting up his breaking stuff.
“That’s something that we were stressing in extended, is to command that fastball, and it’s gotten better as the season went on,” Spikes’ pitching coach Justin Meccage said. “Pitching in has been much improved. That was a weakness of his coming in to the season. Early on it still wasn’t very good, but as the season went on it’s gotten a lot better.”
The first time I saw Kingham this year, he looked impressive with his curveball. Due to the approach of focusing on fastball command, his curve has gotten a bit rusty, and it showed at times tonight, lacking the control he showed earlier in the season. However, he stepped up with his changeup tonight, which looked very sharp, and was very useful in a lineup that featured five left handers and one switch hitter.
“If it’s in the right count, the right situation, I’m going to throw it, and tonight it worked really well,” Kingham said.
Kingham’s changeup looked good, achieving the desired result of having low armside movement that left handers swing over top of. He started going with it a bit more in the final two innings, getting a swinging strikeout to end the fourth, and an easy ground out against Casey Rasmus, brother of Colby Ramus, to end the fifth inning.
I’ve been impressed with Kingham both times I’ve seen him this year. He’s a tall right hander with a good frame who throws in the low 90s, has good fastball command, a strong curveball, and a good changeup. He commands his fastball so well that it allows him to work off the pitch and use those secondary pitches to get batters out. To put this in perspective, everything we want to see out of Zack Von Rosenberg, Kingham is already doing. From the fastball command, to the higher velocity, to the solid changeup against left handers, and even to being able to use a strong curveball as an out pitch. I had him as my number ten prospect in our most recent outings. I don’t see him leaving that top ten list following his final outing of the year.
Allie has had a bit of a rough year, causing some to question his future, and question whether he’s still a top prospect. Tonight was one of his best outings of the year, not just statistically, but from a standpoint of commanding his fastball. He threw 14 pitches, retiring the Mud Dogs in order. The best thing was that he was working inside, especially to right handed hitters. That included three straight inside fastballs to the first right hander he faced, sitting at 94, 95, and 93 respectively, with the last one resulting in an infield pop up.
“Given how hard Stetson throws, if he can establish (pitching inside) to right handed hitters, he’ll start moving up the ladder really quick,” Kimera Bartee said.
The highlight of his quick outing was the final batter. Allie started off with a pitch way inside , hitting 95 MPH, and almost hitting the right handed batter at the plate. His next pitch was a 93 MPH fastball to the outer half of the plate, which was out of reach for the swing attempt. Allie returned inside with a 94 MPH fastball, again pushing the batter off the plate. His next pitch was a 92 MPH fastball over the outer half for a called strike. He finished off the at-bat with a nice 94 MPH fastball on a downward plane, sitting on the outer half of the plate, and getting a swinging strikeout.
“The whole at-bat he was stepping out, so I was like, ‘you know what? Pound away,” Allie said of the at-bat. “There’s no way he’s hitting it’. I went back in again and he did the same thing, stepped out, and just kept going away.”
The outing was definitely what you want to see from a guy who has struggled so much this year with his fastball command. It got to the point where the Pirates moved him to the bullpen, so that he could focus on coming in and getting three outs, rather than worrying about stretching his stuff over an entire start. That approach has allowed Allie to go back to attacking hitters, which is what we saw tonight.
“I felt like the old days,” Allie said about his outing. “Got up there, didn’t really think, just threw the baseball, and good things happen when you’re not thinking.”
“We’ve been trying to get him to relax, and throw a little bit more with ease, and mentally be more at ease, and I saw that tonight,” Spikes’ pitching coach Justin Meccage said. “Really, three out of the last four performances has been that, where the fastball’s commanded, he’s relaxed, he’s comfortable, but not muscling up, trying to throw it real hard. And the velocity’s the same. When he throws easy, the velocity is the same as when he muscles up and tries to throw it.”
The velocity was impressive. All 14 pitches were fastballs. Two were 91 MPH and one was 92. Allie mostly sat at 93-94, hitting 93 MPH four times, and 94 MPH five times. He topped out tonight at 95, hitting it twice, and both times throwing the pitch inside to a right hander. The velocity is good, but it’s nothing if he can’t command it, and he was doing a great job of commanding the pitch tonight, working both sides of the plate, and dominating the opposing hitters, including the strike out over Garrett Wittels, who had a 56 game hitting streak earlier this year at Florida International University.
“That’s something we couldn’t do early on in the season. We were just worried about throwing strikes,” Meccage said about Allie’s approach of pushing the batter off the plate and then pitching outside in the final at-bat. “That’s still a goal of ours, but we’re able now that he’s under control mentally and under control physically, we’re able to do some more of that stuff and talk about that stuff more. He’s done a better job the last three out of four outings with that approach.”
We released our top ten prospects from the 2011 GCL Pirates earlier this week. Lopez finished 6th in the rankings, mostly based off his strong numbers at the level in his first pro season. I think a lot of that was also based off the reports that he hit 94 MPH when the Pirates signed him. Based on tonight’s outing, I don’t think he’d make the GCL top 10, or at least he’d be lower than 6th. In his first inning he was sitting 86-87 MPH, touching 88. In his second inning he was 85-90 MPH, working in the 88-90 MPH range to the last two batters.
His fastball has some nice arm side movement, although he’s not consistent with the pitch. He also left a lot of pitches high in the zone, and seemed to have better command of his fastball when he was in the 86-87 MPH range. When he got up to the 88-90 MPH range he was hit hard, giving up a ground rule double, along with a home run over the State College version of the Clemente wall. He showed the makings of a nice curveball, and had good movement on his fastball, but he’s very raw. I should also note that when I saw him in Spring Training, he was working in the mid-80s, although I chalked that up to him being behind in his pre-season work.
Alen Hanson – I don’t base much off of one game for a position player, but I was impressed with Hanson’s speed tonight, and unimpressed with his plate patience. He swung at a pitch way outside of the zone for a strikeout to end the second inning, going up against a left handed pitcher. The pitch was in the left handed batter’s box, and Hanson tried to lunge out and hit it.
Rodarrick Jones – I’ve been impressed with his ability to just get hits. He puts a good bat on the ball, and could be an interesting 37th round pick to watch going forward.
The Pirates Prospects season ending tour will continue tomorrow from Altoona, where I will be covering the Curve for the final four games of the season. I will be reporting live from the game, with a recap and more player insight afterwards. If you’ve enjoyed the reports so far, show your support to the site by purchasing a copy of the 2011 Prospect Guide, which is now on a season ending clearance sale.