Following a fast start at Triple-A, Nick Kingham has come back down to Earth as of late.
However, this has not dashed one American League scout’s opinion on the right-hander. The scout referred to Kingham as having the possibility as a frontline starter in Pittsburgh.
“He has a hard change, but good fade,” the scout said. “There is late slider run and command with the fastball.”
These pitches allow the scout to compare him to rehabbing starter Gerrit Cole.
“He is a poor man’s Gerrit Cole for me,” the scout said. “He is a few ticks below Cole, so more of a three starter.”
Though Kingham does not have the fastball velocity that Cole does, the spreads on his three pitches are impressive. The fastball for Kingham is between 91 and 93, while the changeup is between 87 and 88. Kingham’s curveball further slows the pace, and sits between 84 and 86.
After allowing just one earned run in June, while working 26.2 innings, Kingham inflated to a 5.76 ERA in five starts in July. The International League went from hitting .165 against him in June to .237 in July. In addition, Kingham allowed three home runs in July and two more so far in August, after allowing none in June.
In his first start in the month, on July 5, Kingham allowed 10 hits and six earned runs in 6.1 innings. After his first tough start with Indianapolis, Kingham bounced back nicely in his next start on July 10, when he allowed only two hits in six shutout innings.
While his third start of the month went down as a quality start, Kingham still labored at times. He allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits.
In his fourth start, it appeared like Kingham was back to the June form through five innings. However, in the sixth, he walked five hitters, one intentionally. Along with the walks, Kingham allowed seven earned runs in the frame. Coming into the start, Kingham had only walked six total hitters in seven Triple-A starts.
In the final start of the month, Kingham allowed four runs (three earned) in five innings. However, in the inning where it fell apart, Kingham committed three errors on his own, while contributed heavily to the run total.
After only allowing those six walks in his first seven starts with Indianapolis, Kingham has walked 13 in four starts since. Kingham also battled control issues toward the beginning of the season with Altoona, as he allowed 21 free passes in his first eight games, including nine in the first three starts of the season.
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor thinks that some of the struggles since the beginning of June coincide with the command issues. However, he pointed out that these issues have led to more solid contact, as he has been touching more of the plate.
“He is aware of this and his ball has been up in the zone a little bit,” Treanor said. “If you get up in the zone and you catch too much of the plate, they will make you pay for it here. I think that is kind of what he has gone through.”
Treanor thinks that these command issues and tough innings are due to Kingham trying to be too fine and nibbling the plate rather than attacking the hitters aggressively.
“There are some innings where they have gotten some guys on base and then I think he tries to be too fine, instead of keeping attacking the guys,” Treanor said. “That is really what we have seen [in recent] outings. He threw really well through five innings, and then comes out in the sixth and walks [five] guys. He was trying to be too fine, rather than going with what has gotten him to the sixth inning.”
In his last outing on August 12, Kingham allowed three hits and one run on a solo shot in seven strong innings.
While it appeared after a strong June that Kingham might be in line for a September call up to help the Pirates down the stretch run, the recent struggles have dashed that hope. Kingham still has a bright future, but it will have to be in 2015 in Pittsburgh. He will likely start the season in Indianapolis, unless he is lights out in the spring. This should create a nice rotation in Triple-A with Kingham, a hopefully healthy Jameson Taillon and the recently promoted Adrian Sampson. All three could be options for the Pirates by mid-season, if not earlier.