Nick Kingham threw eight shutout innings in his final start of the year for Altoona.

Scout: Nick Kingham is a Poor Man’s Gerrit Cole

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.

Rough July

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.

Manager’s take

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.

Season outlook

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.

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Ryan Palencer

Ryan joined Pirates Prospects as the Indianapolis Triple-A writer in 2014. Prior to joining Pirates Prospects, Ryan covered high school, college and professional sports in the Indianapolis area. For more updates throughout the season, follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpalencer.

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  • leadoff

    This is why you don’t jump talented pitchers to the majors from AA, they need to see problems and they need to figure out how to overcome them, this is good for Kingham, better he works out why things happen to him in AAA than at the majors. Nice to see a scouts perspective on Kingham, sounds to me like he would still be a good trade chip if the Pirates needed to move him or a solid starting pitcher for the Bucs.

  • Jared

    I would very much like to see the Pirates re-sign Liriano, especially considering he’s a lefty, because when he’s been healthy he’s been lights out both last year and this year. I wonder if the Pirates will hesitate to spend the money on him, though, due to Kingham, Sampson, and Taillon in AAA. I hope they do not go down that path because Liriano is a legitimate ACE arm and a dominant lefty. I would much rather see Cole, Liriano highlight the top of the rotation and have the depth and quality behind them in the form of Locke, Worley, Morton, Kingham, Taillon, and Sampson. That’s 6 quality depth starters behind two top of the rotation studs…that would lead to a very successful rotation I believe…a lot less so without Liriano I fear.

    • Scott Kliesen

      I wouldn’t count on Liriano being here next year. I believe there will be several suitors for Liriano who will be willing to pay a premium for him. And I believe Pirates will move on to the next reclamation project(s) to bridge the gap at the beginning of the season until Taillon, Kingham and Sampson are called upon to start in Pittsburgh.

      Furthermore, I would rather see them save on the money it would take to sign Liriano and Volquez and use it on Martin. He’s much more difficult to replace next year than either one of these two.

      • pilbobuggins

        I’m sure it will never happen but I for one would like to see a little loyalty and gratitude from guys who’s careers were going nowhere and come to the burgh as a last resort only to find themselves pitching as good or better than their younger self. Like I said though it won’t happen in todays baseball, shoot for that matter todays world, it is nice to think about though.

        • Jared

          And I would like to see the Pirates show some gratitude for the fans coming out in droves this year (attend over 2.5M probably) and make a legitimate effort/keep both Martin and Liriano. They could easily do that and upgrade the bench and not spend over $90M.

          • pilbobuggins

            That’s a valid point jared.

        • IC Bob

          I understand what you are saying but I can’t begrudge an athlete if he is offered millions of dollars more then what the Pirates offer. In Liranos case he is in line for a multi year contract that will pay him beyond double of his last contract. The Pirates will likely offer him little more then what they are currently paying him. Same probably goes for Martin. It could be said that the Bucs should should reward those guys for substantially outperforming there contracts. As for Kingham we are going to need him,Tallion and or Sampsont to be good next year. Our staff is going to take a hit with Liriano gone. I don’t think Locke will ever be better then he is right now, Worely is a pure wildcard at this point and Morton just isn’t that good.

          • Jared

            Add to that the potential loss of Martin and our staff could become a weakness instead of a strength.

          • pilbobuggins

            No I agree, begrudging an athlete for taking the best offer is not their fault. Although the escalating salaries are getting a bit ridiculous. I don’t have a problem with athletes in any sport getting paid quite a bit more than the average joe after all the years they put in with little to no money and the shortness of most careers them making a boatload of money when they finally make the show is understandable. What I have a problem with is the amount of money these contracts have grown by. How much is enough? Like I keep saying baseball needs a system whether it’s a salary cap or more revenue sharing or whatever someone can come up with to at least slow the runaway contracts and level the playing field.

  • pilbobuggins

    I wonder if some of kinghams problem can be attributed to fatigue? I’m curious as to how close to the most innings he has ever pitched he is. Or number of pitches he has thrown compared to previous totals. Anyway just a thought, have a great day.

  • piratemike

    After reading the scouting report on Meadows the No 2 prospect in the Pirates system and finding out he is nothing more then a 4th or 5th outfielder and Jacoby Jones is nothing more then a utility player we have to realize that the Pirates highly rated minor league system is a fraud.
    When you look at our highly touted first rounders we were sold a bill of goods.
    Alvarez hit some HR’s but nothing else and now has lost the ability to play 3b.
    We were told that Sanchez was major league ready defensively but if he makes it to the majors will only be another bench player.
    Taillon despite all the hoopla has been less then great.
    Cole pitched decent last year but has been disappointing this year and nobody can say for sure that he will be anymore then a middle of the rotation starter if he ever gets healthy
    They drafted a pitcher in 2012 that refused to sign and even if he did so far he has been a total bust for the Astros.
    Tucker is far too young to make any predictions on so I will leave him out.
    In a system that has hundreds of players in it the law of averages say that there are bound to be a few successful ones but to label this a top 5 system something is wrong somewhere or there are a lot of really bad systems in baseball.

    • Jared

      Who the hell said Meadows is only a 4th OF?! He’s a potential 5-tool Mike Trout type player. Since when is that a 4/5th OF?!

      • piratemike

        Scouting report in Baseball Prospectus.

        • wmcclurg

          Well if 1 scout said that about Meadows and Jones, then it HAS to be true, right? Come on…quit with the hyperbole. For the 1 scout on BPro saying that about Meadows, there’s 5 others (KLaw, Sickels, Mayo, etc) saying he has a chance to be a superstar.

  • bucsws2014

    Isn’t the generally accepted rule of thumb for a plus changeup a drop in velocity of 8-10 mph? Seems Kingham’s separation isn’t all that great – 4-6 mph.

  • Andy Prough

    Our bullpen is absolute garbage. Whoever is coaching these guys needs to be fired immediately. I’d trade the entire crew for a pair of used sweat socks at this point. We’d have an insurmountable lead in the division already if these guys weren’t constantly walking leadoff hitters with a 2-3 run lead, giving up 2-run 7th and 8th inning homers, etc, etc, etc

    And why in the world is Hurdle pulling our starters after 5 shutout innings if he’s got no one reliable in the bullpen to hand the ball to?

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