Righty Kingham earns high praise, promotion to Altoona
The 2010 draft was the year that the Pirates selected Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie plus a whole bunch of other high school pitchers who weren't guaranteed to sign let alone pan out.
Nick Kingham, drafted in the fourth round, was one of those other pitchers.
He was the third of seven high school arms taken with the Pirates' first 10 picks, but fourth-rounders don't get the big bonus money or the PNC Park news conferences that first- and second-rounders do. Kingham received a $480,000 bonus, which was still $225,300 over slot, but it was hardly the millions bestowed on Taillon, taken second overall, or Allie, the flame-thrower who many expected to go in the first round but dropped to the Pirates in the second.
Three years later, Allie has reinvented himself as a position player, and Kingham, after progressing steadily through the ranks, is a teammate of Taillon at Double-A Altoona. The 6-foot-5 right-hander also is earning high praise from Pirates general manager Neal Huntington.
“Nick is doing pretty much everything you need him to do — moving his fastball around the zone, throwing his breaking ball for strikes, good changeup for strikes, and we felt like he was ready to experience the next challenge,” Huntington said after promoting Kingham from High-A Bradenton to Altoona on June 11. “There's really no flaw in his game. It's just a continued refinement of how he uses his stuff and how he attacks hitters and building his overall pitch package.”
As Kingham sat in a room in Peoples Natural Gas Field before the Curve played a rain-delayed game against New Hampshire last week, his eyes widened when told of Huntington's assessment and admitted it was nice to hear.
“But I feel like I need to be more consistent maybe with my pitches and execute what I'm throwing,” said Kingham, a native of Las Vegas. “Work on pitch sequences, maybe what to throw to what hitter in what count, just try to do a better job with that to give me the best advantage to get the hitter out. That's probably what I have to work on right now.”
Kingham was 6-3 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 starts in Bradenton before earning the promotion to Altoona. He also saw his strikeout-to-walk ratio go from 3.25 in Low-A West Virginia in 2012 to 5.36 in Bradenton and his WHIP drop from 1.189 in West Virginia to 0.986.
“I definitely was improving as the season went on down there,” Kingham said. “Every day I tried to go out and get a little better than the day before, and for the most part of felt like I did that. But I still have so much room to grow, and I need to get a lot better to get to Pittsburgh from where I am right now.”
Kingham, who pitched five scoreless innings in his first Double-A start, is rooming with Taillon, among others. Despite spending lots of time together at Pirate City and spring training, the two are teammates for the first time.
“I was just watching his bullpen,” Taillon said. “He has good command of all his pitches, and he's got a really good feel for how good of stuff he has. He can flip a curveball for a strike, he can bury it, throw his changeup for a strike and command the zone real well.”