Nick Kingham was promoted from Altoona to Indianapolis today. I haven’t written much about the minor leagues this year, but given all of the thinking I’ve been doing about the short-term and long-term future of the Pirates’ rotation, I think it’s worth it to take a little bit of time and talk about Kingham’s general performance and timeline to PNC Park.
If you want to look at Kingham’s minor league career with a slightly cynical bent, it seems like he’s being promoted so that he can spend a year at Double-A, a year at Triple-A, and be ready for a call-up in early-to-mid June of 2015, should his performance warrant it. He’s spent just about a year in Double-A now, making 26 appearances (24 starts) and throwing 144 1/3 innings over 2013 and 2014. In those innings he’s got 123 strikeouts, 55 walks, and just four homers allowed to support his 2.89 ERA. His strikeout rate in Altoona is lower than it was in Bradenton or West Virginia, but that’s mostly because of his performance this year. Last year, he struck out 69 in 73 1/3 Altoona innings; this year he’s struck out 54 in 71.
I’m always hesitant to jump to conclusions with minor league stats like this, knowing that the Pirates often have minor league pitchers working on specific things that don’t always show up in box scores. Really, aside from one start at the end of April where the Erie Seawolves bombed him for seven runs (six earned) in 3 2/3 innings, Kingham’s been pretty excellent with Altoona this year. Kingham’s ERA with Altoona is 2.41 in his other 11 starts. His controlled has stablized a bit lately, and according to Pirates Prospects’, his fastball was sitting at 93-95 and touching 97 in a recent start.
It’s easy to guess Kingham’s earliest arrival date at this point; it’s almost exactly one year from today. He’s a huge factor in figuring out just how many starters the Pirates will need to acquire between now and Opening Day 2015 for the 2015 season; if he pitches well at Indy this year and looks like a strong rotation candidate for early June next year, the Pirates might be able to get away with Free Agent Acquistion A, Cole, Morton, and some mixture of Locke/Cumpton/Sadler/others until Kingham and Taillon are ready. If Kingham doesn’t pitch well in Triple-A, well, fixing the rotation is going to be a huge chore for next year.
At the very least, though, it’s good to see he’s got his early season issues behind him and that he’s approximately where the Pirates want him to be at this point in his development. Hopefully, his development continues and he can help make sure that rotation issues like the ones the Pirates are having now don’t crop up again in the future.