Nick Kingham got off to a good start early in his high-A debut. He retired his first nine batters in order, getting three strikeouts in the process. Kingham was in total command, allowing only one ball to leave the infield, and getting a lot of ground ball outs. Then the right-hander ran into trouble in the fourth inning.
After giving up a leadoff double, Kingham allowed a single through the hole on the left side. Alen Hanson was staying close to the bag to hold the runner, and the ball rolled past him, right around where he’d be standing with no runners on. Kingham walked Miguel Sano to load the bases, then issued a wild pitch to bring in the first run. That prompted a visit to the mound from pitching coach Justin Meccage, who told Kingham to calm down and not to worry about the guys on base.
Kingham got a pop up for the first out, but a passed ball by Jacob Stallings brought in a second run. Two more pop outs finished off the frame, limiting the damage.
“I was getting too comfortable,” Kingham said of the inning. “Relying on my fastball a little more than I should have. I should have mixed in a little more off-speed. And that goes for the whole game. I guess I didn’t throw many off-speed the whole game. I didn’t really need to, I felt like. So, toward the second time through the lineup I should have mixed up a little bit more, which I didn’t do, and that’s what happened.”
In the fifth inning, Kingham allowed his third run of the night, giving up a one out, solo homer to Kyle Knudson. He finished the outing giving up three runs, two earned, on three hits in five innings. Kingham struck out four and walked one. His fastball was mostly sitting 92-93 MPH, and touched as high as 95. The fastball was obviously working early in the game, as he looked dominant the first time through the lineup. He’s got good secondary stuff, with a curveball and a changeup that can both be above average pitches. The results should be better when he mixes those pitches in.
“I thought he was real sharp tonight,” catcher Jacob Stallings said. “We just kind of ran into a little bad luck there in the fourth inning. He was real sharp in the other innings. We just didn’t score any runs for him.”
Willy Garcia’s Strikeout Problems
Gregory Polanco got $75,000 when he signed. Alen Hanson got $150,000. A guy who got more than both of them combined was Willy Garcia. He signed for $280,000 out of the Dominican Prospect League. Garcia was viewed as a five tool talent when he was signed. He’s added some bulk to his frame since then and has lost a bit of speed since I’ve seen him last year, but nothing alarming. Last year he hit 18 homers in West Virginia, but only a .240 average with too many strikeouts. Heading into last season he was ranked higher than Hanson and Polanco, but hasn’t seen the breakout season they have yet.
Garcia went 2-for-4 at the plate tonight, making him 3-for-7 with one strikeout in the first two games. After the game, Bradenton manager Frank Kremblas talked about one positive that he saw from Garcia tonight, aside from the two hits.
“I thought what he did better tonight than last night, his third and fourth at-bat [last night] he lost his concentration a bit and chased some pitches out of the zone and got himself out,” Kremblas said. “And I thought tonight he did a really good job of that.”
Garcia struck out 28 percent of the time last year, mostly because he chases too many pitches. He’s still got a lot of potential, but needs to get better strike zone recognition to realize that potential.
“If he swings at strikes, he’s not going to strike out 28 percent of the time,” Kremblas said.
**Gregory Polanco had three singles on the night, giving him his first hits of the year. The first one was a liner up the middle. The second was a grounder that he pulled and found a hole between first and second. The third one was up the middle, and brought in the only run of the night. He stole second after the second single, and the slide looked strange. Polanco has long legs and glides from base to base. But before he went to slide he stopped, took a few small steps to slow down, and slid. Even with the delayed slide he was in safely with plenty of time. He might have been thinking about sliding head first, but remembered that the organization doesn’t allow that. It could have also been a timing thing for the young athlete.
**Jacob Stallings is a good catcher behind the plate as far as game calling and working with a pitching staff. He also has a good arm, but one weakness could be his movement behind the plate. Tonight he didn’t look very agile. He’s very tall (6′ 5″), which isn’t what you normally see from a catcher. There was the wild pitch and the passed ball in the fourth inning, the latter of which wasn’t normal for Stallings. Most of his issues came from being slow getting out of the squatting position, which is probably due to the height.
On the other side of the game, Stallings had a great night last night. He went 3-for-3 with a double and a home run on Opening Night.
“I’m a notorious bad starter, so it was nice to get off to a nice start,” Stallings said.