With Jameson Taillon returning from Tommy John surgery, and unlikely to make an impact at the Major League level early in the year, the top prospect to watch for a MLB promotion in 2015 will be Nick Kingham. The right-handed pitcher made the jump to Indianapolis last year, and was optioned to the level a few weeks ago, where he will pitch out of the rotation. Kingham could be an option for the Pirates by mid-season, after they go through early season options like Jeff Locke, Casey Sadler, Clayton Richard, and Radhames Liz.
On Tuesday, Kingham went up against the Phillies’ farm system, and had a very specific approach. He was focusing heavily on his two-seam fastball, throwing it much more often than the four-seam pitch he usually works with. His fastball was sitting 92-95 MPH, although the upper end might have been the four-seam.
“It’s coming a long way, it’s still not to where it needs to be, but you can’t get better unless you throw it,” Kingham said of the pitch. “Today was the first day I threw it consistently.”
Kingham said he threw about 20-25 two-seam fastballs. He’s focusing on improving the pitch now, so that he has it as a situational pitch, and something to mix in with the four-seam fastball. He’s not going to become a two-seam guy in the future, but the focus on the new pitch should help him increase his ground ball rates and become more effective against upper level guys. This isn’t an uncommon approach for the Pirates. They’ve taken a lot of guys who have had good stuff, put a bigger focus on the two-seam, and saw those pitchers reach a new level thanks to an increased ground ball rate. Kingham’s ground ball rate last year was 45%.
Along with the focus on the two-seamer, Kingham was throwing a few curve balls toward the end of his outing, trying to get the pitch sharp for the beginning of the season. The video below features an at-bat where he threw three straight curves, eventually getting a strikeout. The video also features more of Kingham from Tuesday’s outing, and his comments on what he is working on at this point in camp.
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.
So for all the projectable pitchers we signed , what is our success rate?
As defined by *Major League* success? Zero.
Which is why the next few seasons will be critically important to the evaluation and evolution of the Pirate’s process.
Up until this point, only the ’09 guys could have been reasonably expected to make an impact at the big league level, and even that would’ve been aggressive. Those guys are still just 24 years old.
If, for whatever reason, Nick Kingham and Tyler Glasnow flame out in the next two years, then I think they legitimately have to look at what went wrong and how to make sure the next group – Clay Holmes, and the ’14 HS arms, specifically – end up more productive.
If Kingham and Glasnow turn out to be the guys they’re expected to, then the entire process is justified.
Bonus points for using a headline picture of Kingham actually throwing a two-seamer.
That picture was taken on the same day.
Articles like these are why I subscribe.
“You keep outta dis. He doesn’t have to shoot you now!”
Always good to hear from you Wabbit.