The Pirates selected Nick Kingham in the fourth round of the 2010 draft—the same draft in which they nabbed fellow right-hander Jameson Taillon with the No. 2 overall pick.
In his full-season debut at Low-A West Virginia in 2012, Kingham showed a tentative feel of a promising arsenal, posting a 4.39 ERA and 117-36 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 127 innings (27 starts). He missed plenty of bats and held opposing hitters to a .243 average, but the right-hander struggled to keep the ball down in the zone and ultimately allowed 15 home runs.
Well, the 22-year-old—in his age-21 season—put things together in a hurry last season at a pair of advanced levels.
Opening the year at High-A Bradenton in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Kingham registered a 3.09 ERA and 75-14 strikeout-to-walk in 70 innings (13 starts). As a result of his success with Bradenton, the Pirates promoted Kingham to Double-A Altoona in late June.
The right-hander responded to the challenge by posting even better numbers against Eastern League hitters, with a 2.70 ERA and 69-30 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 73.1 innings. More importantly, he yielded only one home run at the more advanced level.
With an ideal pitcher’s frame at 6’5”, 220 pounds, Kingham works from a consistently high three-quarters arm slot, employing a delivery that involves minimal effort and is easy to repeat. Specifically, his delivery has been cleaner and more efficient after lowering his leg kick. As a result, he’s able to stay in line with the plate and better utilize his strong lower half.
Kingham’s fastball is presently his biggest offering, with plus velocity in the 93-96 mph range that he holds deep into starts. The right-hander demonstrates a feel for pounding the outside corner against both right- and left-handed hitters with the pitch, and he’ll elevate it against same-side hitters to expand the zone.
His changeup is a present fringe-average offering, though the pitch flashes big potential with decent depth and late sinking action. However, the velocity of the pitch is inconsistent, as it typically works in the mid-80s but is sometimes thrown too firmly in the upper-80s.
Kingham’s curveball serves as another fringe-average offering with plenty of room to improve. He throws it consistently with tight spin and late downer bite, and the pitch flashes above-average overall potential. However, his command of the pitch is fringy (at best) and will need considerable refinement next season.
With the graduation of Gerrit Cole to the major leagues last year, Taillon ranks as the Pirates’ top pitching prospect heading into the 2013 season. However, Kingham isn’t far behind his fellow 2010 draftee. The only thing separating the two at the moment is Taillon’s command of a deep secondary arsenal. But if Kingham makes progress on that front during the first half of the 2014 season, then there’s a realistic chance they’ll both finish the year in the major leagues.