West Virginia started a four game series in Lakewood tonight with Nick Kingham on the mound. This was the first time I saw him pitch, as well as the first time seeing Alen Hanson, Willy Garcia and Jose Osuna. Gregory Polanco wasn’t in the starting lineup, although he did pinch hit in the ninth. Although not in the same prospect class as the other three batters, I kept an eye on Taylor Lewis as well.
Kingham’s start had a lot of positives, and some obvious negatives, allowing three runs in five innings. He got a lot of swing and misses, as well as plenty of foul balls, many with soft contact. He also threw plenty of strikes and a good portion of the balls he threw were up and in to the batter. The negative was the hard contact off of him, even on a couple of the outs.
Due to rain during the first couple innings the radar gun wasn’t on for his entire start. When it came on in the third inning, he was hitting 91 MPH consistently. He topped out at 92 in his last three innings, but he was mostly 90-91. Nick had some good results with his curveball, once getting a batter to bail out on a called strike. Twice he got strikeouts with the pitch — one a check swing, the other time looking. He also threw a change-up that got some weak contact for two outs. It was an impressive outing from the standpoint that he had three pitches working, but the hard hit balls took some luster off his game.
I was really looking forward to seeing Hanson, who has jumped in most people’s rankings of the Pirates top prospects. He had a poor first at-bat, ending in a weak pop-up to first base in foul territory. He was well out in front of breaking pitches early and he seemed to be getting a lot, but the Lakewood pitcher went to the well once too often in his second at-bat and he lined the third straight off-speed pitch into left field. In his third at-bat, Hanson hit a hard grounder down the 3B for a double. His next two at-bats ended in ground balls, leaving him 2-5 on the night.
He stole a base, although the Lakewood catcher whiffed on the catch as he got out of the squat to make the throw and Hanson moved onto third base on the play. In the field he showed good range to both sides. After a nice backhand catch on a ball hit into the hole, he didn’t set himself well and airmailed the ball over first base for his 29th error on the season.
Garcia did not have a good day after his first at-bat. He hit a hard bouncing single up the middle in the second inning. His at-bats that followed got ugly at the end. He flew out to right field to end the third, then struck out on three swing and misses, with all three pitches being breaking balls that were outside and in the dirt. In his last time up, he hit a weak grounder between the pitcher and first base, ending the day 1-4. He made two errors in the field, one was possibly due to the wet field conditions. Garcia did have one strong positive on the day, his throws from right field. He made two strong throws, showing the plus arm he was said to have when he was signed.
All three balls that Osuna hit today, he pulled. In his other at-bat, he went down swinging at a breaking ball outside, which seemed to be a weakness for the team on the night. Osuna had a nice hard hit liner to left field, for his only hit of the game. His other at-bats resulted in a fly ball to left field and a grounder to shortstop. Not much to go on with him this game, and no difficult plays at first base. He didn’t have any chance on the throw by Hanson that resulted in an error.
Lewis was a 10th round pick last year out of Maine, described as raw and he really struggled with State College last season. He just recently joined West Virginia and has been playing well. He seems to have good speed, getting down the line quickly on an average ground out to shortstop. Taylor hit a soft liner to center field in his first at-bat and struck out looking his second time up. His third at-bat shows that he got a double but it was just a really bad misplay by the left fielder, who took a horrible route to a routine fly ball about twenty feet short of the warning track. Lewis made an impressive sliding catch to end the fifth inning, showing off more of his speed, to go with good defense.
**Robbie Kilcrease took the loss, allowing three runs in the sixth inning. The side-arm lefty was throwing mid-80’s fastballs that were getting hit hard.
**Clario Perez followed Kilcrease and had a very nice outing. He was throwing 90-92, almost exclusively fastballs. He gave up two hits, one to the hot-hitting Chris Duffy, who is too old for the South Atlantic League and proving that fact every night recently. The other hit was the grounder to Hanson that was thrown away. An on target throw would’ve got the runner.
**Gregory Polanco pinch hit in the ninth and flew out to left-center field. He took the first pitch on the inside for a questionable strike then hit the second pitch.
**Ashley Ponce drove in two runs with his first hit in 13 AB’s for WV.
**I will be at all three games remaining in the series, with the following pitchers taking their turn on the mound:
Zack Dodson, Tuesday
Robby Rowland, Wednesday
Ryan Hafner, Thursday
John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.
When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.
Thanks…. You’re definitely missed at OBN.