One of my favorite picks in the 2018 MLB Draft was the Atlanta Braves taking big Texas right hander Nolan Kingham in the 12th round. Kingham had some ups and downs this season as he battled through some injury, but made my Top 100 prospect list in this draft.
Who is He?
Nolan Kingham is a 6’3”, 205 pound right handed pitcher for the University of Texas. The younger brother of Pirates rookie pitcher Nick Kingham, Nolan is a native of Las Vegas where he attended Desert Oasis High School. Kingham was considered a promising draft prospect out of high school, but elected to go the college route instead and was only selected in the 39th round by the Brewers.
Kingham hasn’t been fully healthy this year. He dealt with a cyst that he had to have drained and removed during the NCAA Tournament, and dealt with a nasty virus at the start of the tournament that took away some of his strength.
2016-4 starts and 17 relief appearances, 38.0 IP, 2-3, 2 SV, 3.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 16 K, 16 BB
2017-13 starts and 3 relief appearances, 92.0 IP, 10-4, 2.84 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 67 K, 24 BB
2018-15 starts and 4 relief appearances, 95.0 IP, 8-4, 3 SV, 4.34 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 77 K, 23 BB
Kingham’s fastball is a heavy sinking fastball. It’s got great life and can really pound the bottom of the zone when it’s on. His velocity range is up for debate, as he’s dealt with minor nagging injury this year and it’s effected his velocity. The peak is up around 97 MPH, though he also fluctuated quite a bit this year and typically sat between 86-94. I believe that with some time off to rest he can help his velocity play towards the higher end of his range more consistently- though his movement is at his best when he isn’t overthrowing. His fastball gets a wide range of grade for me because we’ve seen both this year, but when it’s on it’s capable of making batters swing and miss as well as racking up grounders, though he typically pitches more to contact than he does for strikeouts. The 65 grade is probably a little too optimistic, but when he’s got his velocity and movement going it will play as nearly double plus. The 60 grade feels like the more likely grade.
Kingham has a big breaking slider that isn’t always consistent but when it’s on it’s a plus pitch. At the very least the slider is an above average pitch. It’s a pitch that Kingham uses often, making him a sinker/slider pitcher to an extent though he can strike guys out at a better rate than most sinker/slider pitchers.
The change is a third pitch for Kingham, which he uses but doesn’t rely on that much with his sinker/slider mix. It’s a good pitch to keep hitters off balance.
Command was a real weakness for Kingham as a freshman. He made a dramatic improvement as a sophomore last year. This year he’s been more control over command in that he’s been throwing strikes but he hasn’t been hitting his spots enough. It’s definitely made him a bit more hittable than he should be, and has been part of why he’s struggled to put away guys with two strikes at times. I think the command ticks back up and settles in as a 50 grade.
If you watch Kingham this year there are times he looks like a #3/4 starter and others he struggles and looks like a future reliever. I really believe he wasn’t physically right this year and is a real candidate to take some time off to get back to 100%.
If you see Kingham at his best it’s easy to see why I ranked him in my Top 100 pre-draft. He’s a big right hander with high level college success, great bloodlines, and significant stuff.
The #3-4 starter potential is definitely in there, but at the same time if he can’t get as consistently strong as often as he did in 2017 then his future would likely reside in the bullpen.
Kingham is a guy who can move fast overall, though I wouldn’t expect that to really happen until the 2019 season. He could easily start in Rome and move up to Florida if he is able to pitch the way he is capable of.