Pittsburgh Pirates 2014 Top Prospects: #6 – Nick Kingham

The Pirates Prospects 2014 Prospect Guide is now on sale. The book features prospect reports on everyone in the system, the 2014 top 50 prospects, and the most comprehensive coverage of the Pirates’ farm system that you can find.  While the top 50 prospects are exclusive to the book, we will be releasing the top 20 prospects over the next few weeks.  Be sure to purchase your copy of the book on the products page of the site.

To recap the countdown so far:

20. Michael De La Cruz, OF
19. JaCoby Jones, OF
18. Barrett Barnes, OF
17. Cody Dickson, LHP
16. Blake Taylor, LHP
15. Joely Rodriguez, LHP
14. Andrew Lambo, OF
13. Stolmy Pimentel, RHP
12. Clay Holmes, RHP
11. Tony Sanchez, C
10. Harold Ramirez, OF
9. Luis Heredia, RHP
8. Josh Bell, OF
7. Reese McGuire, C

We continue the countdown with the number 6 prospect, Nick Kingham.

Nick Kingham
Nick Kingham could be in the majors by the end of the 2014 season.

6. Nick Kingham, RHP

While the Pirates saw Tyler Glasnow breakout overnight, the progression shown by Nick Kingham over the last few years is more typical for a breakout prep pitching prospect. Kingham was signed to an over-slot deal in 2010. At the time he was throwing 88-92 MPH with a tall, sturdy frame and an easy delivery, giving the hope that he could add velocity. That velocity increase came gradually. Kingham added a few MPH each year to his fastball, eventually getting to the point where he was sitting 92-95 MPH and touching as high as 97-98.

Not only does Kingham have good velocity on the fastball, he also has good command and good movement. The pitch is thrown on a downward plane, and he can place it wherever he wants. The combination of velocity, movement, and command makes the fastball a plus offering. He pairs that with a curveball and a changeup, both of which are above-average pitches. The curve could be considered a plus pitch at times. It comes in like a fastball, then has a late drop off the table, leading to missed swings or ground balls. He has had issues commanding the pitch in the past, but he has noted that was mostly due to rust that came from so much focus on his fastball in the lower levels.

The changeup has shown a lot of improvements this year, thrown with fastball arm speed, along with excellent body and life. Scouts who saw him this year gave high grades to the pitch, and at some points the changeup had passed the curveball in quality.

The Pirates could start Kingham back in Altoona in 2014, despite his strong results at the level. That would mostly be due to the immediate need for starting depth in Triple-A. He should make it to Indianapolis by the second half of the season, and could arrive in Pittsburgh by September. Kingham currently profiles as a strong number three who can throw 200 innings per year due to his strong frame. He has shown improvements each year, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to see him continue to develop and become a number two starter in the majors. If he doesn’t arrive in 2014, then it’s very likely that he could join the major league rotation at some point during the 2015 season, likely slotting in behind Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, and Tyler Glasnow.

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Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Bruce Humbert

For all of my friends who like the Volquez signing I give you…

Dan Szymborski: Meh. If Edinson Volquez threw a baseball out of a plane, he’d miss the ground.

Kirk Lee

Obviously Taillon was drafted much earlier, is a year younger, and has the pedigree of a top prospect from the start, but when you really look at the two players pitch, what is it that makes Taillon such a better prospect than Kingham? They throw with approximately the same velocity (Taillon being 1-2 mph faster typically) and get similar numbers at the same levels at pretty much the same age. And somehow Taillon is a top 20 prospect while Kingham doesn’t crack the top 100? This seems like the other side of the “Top prospect at an early age” coin you cited in your first pitch article earlier this week. Taillon was a top prospect early on and never really broke out or collapsed, so he hovers around the same range, while Kingham has broken out from being a nobody, but he did it slowly and steadily so he never saw his stock jump into the “top prospect” label the way it may have if he went from zero to sixty the way Glasnow did. How far ahead of Kingham is Taillon and what makes him so much better?

George Hareras

I think it’s because Taillon hasn’t really broken out yet or showed immense improvement so there is still a lot of more room to grow due to his high draft status, whereas it could be thought that Kingham is already reaching his ceiling. Although I’d like to think both have a lot more room to grow

Chuck Conner


I purchased your “Pirate Prospects” the first 2 years it was published. I have a very hard time reading the small print. Have you changed the size of you print? I asked this once before, but did not get a response.

thank you

Bruce Humbert

I am not sure how the electronic – ebook – version is set up – but most of those formats have resizable fonts – one reason I am hoping Tim goes to a deal where I can get both versions 🙂 Would prefer to carry it on my iPad to games…


Tim, back to JaCoby Jones for a minute. Given the Pirates paucity of thirdbasemen in the system wouldn’t Jones be a strong candidate for 3B? I know that SS and CF are more important, higher valued positions and that the goal of the minor league system is to develop the highest value of each player thinking that you can trade value to fill apparent need. But it bothers me to see an apparent gaping hole behind Alvarez. Does it follow that any SS can also play 3B?


Past doesn’t bother me, present does. He presently has no command and often follows up 4 innings of no hit ball with 2 walks and a 3 run homer in the 5th. He’s prone to big innings caused by wildness, consistently, his whole career


I see Taillon and Kingham as depth for the Wandy Locke combo more than Volquez.

Bruce Humbert

Will be interesting to see how they use both Kingham and Glasnow this spring – part of me suspects the last thing they want is for the fans to think they are ready – or nearly ready – makes the $5M on Volquez look even worse than it is. Bradenton is about a three hour drive for me – so I probably will only get to 3-4 games – would love to see both of these kids pitch. Since I am new to the site do you push out any info on tentative pitching – lineups in advance of the games? Have my very dog eared Prospect Guide ready to go!

NorCal Buc

I like the Volquez signing as well.

This F/O has NOT rushed any of its high ceiling prospects, before their time. They allow these guys the time to mature, and become exceedingly prepared to hit the big time.

After this success of the F/O, it is folly to expect more high-end prospects to be rushed, such as spending less than a half year in Indy, after the necessary time in ‘tuna.

Cato the Elder

Worse than it is? I really like the Volquez signing…there I said it. I dont expect him to be an ace, but I think he’ll be a bargain at $5 mil.


Guys, what does Volquez bring that Pimental or Cumpton might otherwise have provided, at $4.5 MM less? Volquez’s first year at Cincinnati he was tough. After that he has been mediocre. I hope the Pirate’s pitching gurus work their magic on Volquez. But frankly I wish they had spent the money somewhere else.


This is just as guess, but how about veteran depth and a proven track record for rehabbing past aces. Everyone has it tattooed onto 2014 that Liriano will be an ace again. But what if he’s not, or what if he get’s injured. AJ may not be back. Wandy is a question mark. If you plan on making the playoffs, it’s good to have some veteran depth. Then, through the season, you replace the guys that aren’t pulling their weight with young guns. If the starting five at the beginning of the year miraculously stay healthy and perform, then you call up the guns in September an put together your playoff roster.
If the Pirates staff truly has a gift for resurrecting pitchers, it’s good to keep that going to keep the rotation stacked at a bargain price.

Bruce Humbert

Like they did with Sanchez? Sorry – but the money should have been spent on Byrd and Snder non-tendered – payroll would be about the same and the OF would be solid. If the great Polanco proves to be the real deal, Byrd would be a great trade asset.


Jonathan Sanchez was a NRI, the comparison to Volquez is specious. Whether he earns that 5 million contract is another question.

Bruce Humbert

Or better still – tendered AJ and begged him to sign and return for one more season – see the linked article for more….



I agree, Volquez could be a good pitcher for the Bucs, his past does not bother me much. He has a good arm, will have a good defense behind him, a solid catcher, a good park to pitch in and some pretty good guidance.


IMO, Kingham is good enough to start in AAA, the only problem he might have is the numbers game, AAA is going to be loaded with pitchers this year. There are major league teams that could use him on their major league roster at the start of this year.


Surprised to see Kingham behind Hanson. Also, Tim, the last sentence of the article makes it sound like you think Glasnow could be in Pittsburgh in 2015. Did I interpret that wrong or do you believe that? I didn’t think we’d see Glasnow until 2016.


Marty…spend some of those college student buckazoids.

🙂 🙂 🙂

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