In the last two days, Baseball America released their top 20 lists for the Eastern League and the International League. With their first five lists, there weren’t any big surprises. Two players made it from the GCL, West Virginia and Bradenton and it was the players we expected. The lists for the Appalachian League(Bristol) and NYPL(Jamestown) didn’t have any Pirates players and we really didn’t expect anyone to be on them. When they got to the final two lists, that is where the lists went rogue.
Nick Kingham was ranked 20th on both the EL and IL lists. I expected him to be higher on each list and looking at both of them, he seems to fit in the top ten nicely on each list. Perhaps the bigger surprise was the Pirates minor league players ranked ahead of him on each list. Casey Sadler, Elias Diaz and Willy Garcia all ranked ahead of Kingham. I don’t like giving away too much about the upcoming Pirates Prospects top 50 list, which will be in our 2015 prospect guide. Saying that, I can guarantee you that none of those three will be ranked ahead of Kingham when the guide comes out.
If you wanted to, you could go back to our top 10 lists for each team and figure out that Kingham will be ranked ahead of those other three. He was first on our Altoona list and second on the Indianapolis list behind Gregory Polanco. Elias Diaz ranked fourth for Altoona and both Sadler and Garcia ranked sixth.
That is a huge difference between what we have and what Baseball America had, so that led to me taking over First Pitch today. To start off, I went to my go-to scout whenever I have questions. I personally saw all four of the players in question while they were with West Virginia and Tim Williams saw them all with Bradenton, plus I’ve seen Kingham start for Altoona. In August, we went to an American League scout for his opinion on Kingham, so there is a lot to go on here with everything we know, along with the Baseball America report.
Here are four scouting reports on Kingham. First, I’ll start with the long-time NL scout I talked to on Wednesday. He has seen Kingham in person numerous times over the last three years. He said the following about him during our talk:
“I saw him throw very well & still like him as much as in previous years. FB-(91-93), with potential above average CB-(78-82), & average CH-(83-87). There’s plenty to like about Nick”
The AL scout in August said:
“He has a hard change, but good fade. There is late slider run and command with the fastball. He is a poor man’s Gerrit Cole for me. He is a few ticks below Cole, so more of a three starter.”
Those are in line with what we have heard in the past. Then you have the scouting reports from Baseball America. First, starting with the Eastern League write-up:
“Kingham’s primary offering is his fastball, which sits between 90-95 mph and features sink and occasionally cut. He complements the pitch with a slider that sits in the low-80s but can touch higher velocities, and a changeup in the high-80s with solid fading action late. If his changeup improves, he could be a No. 3 starter, though he more safely projects as a durable No. 4.”
The International League write-up had this to say about Kingham(different people wrote up each league):
“Kingham’s clean delivery and efficient use of the strike zone enabled him to average six innings of work in 14 starts with Indianapolis. He gets good angle on all of his pitches. His changeup can be an above-average pitch and is his best secondary offering. He throws both a hard slider and curveball that grade as fringy pitches. He showcased a fastball that can reach 96 mph, though he pitches comfortably in the 91-93 range. ”
The mixed reports also come from within Baseball America. During the International League chat, which was combined with the PCL chat, Vincent Lara was asked about how many players from each league would make one combined top 20 list. His answer was, either 17-3 or 16-4 in favor of the PCL. He said Gregory Polanco would make the list, Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor would also make the list and for the possible fourth person…Nick Kingham. The guy who was ranked #20 on their list, ranked #4 on the list of the person running their chat. He also mentioned later that Kingham is a pitcher in the IL that should be in the top 100 when that list comes out. The reason that Lara said this is because he’s seen Kingham and likes him, plus he has heard good reports from others.
What we get from those four reports is that Kingham throws his fastball in the 91-93 MPH range, but he can ramp it up when needed. I’ve personally seen numerous 96 MPH readings in person and he has hit 97 on multiple occasions. That is a strong fastball. The reports are mixed on his curve and his change, with both of them called average offerings and both called above average. Coming from a 22-year-old, that tells you that he flashes above average stuff with both pitches, but he is inconsistent with the pitches. At his age, that isn’t a surprise, but it tells you that he has a chance for three above average pitches and his command is strong. He’s a big kid with a good body for pitching, which should allow him to put in 200 innings a year.
Based on everything we know, the Baseball America rankings won’t affect how we feel about Kingham. We have heard too many strong reports on him to drop him down our prospect rankings. Most people call him a workhorse #3 starter in the majors and his floor is very high. At this time, I don’t think anyone questions that he will someday be a regular starter in the majors.
Elias Diaz has high upside if he can add some power and hit well at AAA, but there are still questions as to whether he will be a starter in the majors or a defensive-minded backup because the bat isn’t a guarantee yet. That will still get him ranked much higher than he was at this time last year, but not in the top ten like Kingham. Casey Sadler profiles as a #5 starter if all goes well, or a solid reliever if it doesn’t. Willy Garcia is a toolsy outfielder, but his floor is extremely low because of his horrible walk and strikeout rates, which aren’t improving as he moves up. Diaz is the only one that can match Kingham’s upside, but the difference is their worst case scenario, which puts Kingham higher on the prospect list.