For the second week in a row, I’m going to bring up Chad Kuhl. After last week’s entertaining disappointment against the Diamondbacks, Kuhl was removed after four frames against the Mets on Tuesday with forearm discomfort.
I am not bringing up Kuhl in an act of self-depreciation, despite how often I rely on it. Rather, his potential longterm removal from the Pirates rotation means that Nick Kingham could soon hold a firm grip on the #5 spot in Pittsburgh.
I think you see where this is going. A pitcher that is currently owned in under 10% of fantasy leagues, an arm that with consistent playing time could return top-5o starting pitcher production, a rookie who holds a sub 1.00 WHIP, 24% strikeout rate, and 12% whiff rate may suddenly be getting a whole lot of playing time.
Let’s take a dive into what Kingham does on the field and how it could translate into a potential league-winning pickup.
At first glance, seeing four of his six outings come with 3+ ER and 5 or fewer strikeouts in each of his last four starts is a bit underwhelming. A 3.82 ERA and sub 6.0 IPS don’t illuminate a pitcher that will push the needle significantly in the second half. However, I often like to talk about the facets of a pitcher. What makes them work and detail upside based on their approach and arsenal. What I see in Kingham is plenty better than any starter on your waiver wire and allow me to show it.
With any arm, there are three types of pitches that make for a blueprint of success. I talked about it with Joe Biagini way back in February and I’ll remind everywhere here what they are:
- Have a fastball/cutter that you can trust getting strikes
- Have a secondary pitch that you can trust getting strikes
- Have a secondary pitch that you can trust to miss bats
Keep this in mind as we go through Kingham’s arsenal.
Kingham features both four-seamers and two-seamers, with the latter taking a backseat at a sub 15% usage rate. I’m not a huge fan of his sinker – I don’t like too many sinkers in general these days – as among the 81 thrown, it holds a sub 50% zone rate and induced a .318 BAA. It does generate grounders at a remarkable 75% clip, however, while getting chases off the plate constantly as he exclusively jams the pitch inside to right-handers. I wouldn’t call it exceptional, but Kingham trusts it to get double-plays and favors it heavily over his four-seamer when sitting arm-side on the plate.
What I love about his two-seamer is how well it pairs with his four-seamer. Take a look at this at-bat against Wilson Contreras. First Kingham throws a first pitch two-seamer that clips the inside corner for strike one:
Then at 0-2 he gets different movement with his four-seamer upstairs to tie the catcher up for a strikeout:
Kingham’s four-seamer doesn’t need his two-seamer to succeed, either. He throws the pitch three times more often and has confidence using it on both sides of the plate. Here he locks up Marcell Ozuna first with a four-seamer away, then a spotted four-seamer inside for the punchout:
A generous call, but a great example of Kingham’s ability to travel all around the zone with his four-seamer. Across 245 thrown this season, Kingham has had plenty of success with the pitch, allowing just a .200 BAA and one longball as it sits around 92mph. There is some room for improvement here in a relatively low 51.8% zone rate, though his solid command of both two-seamers and four-seamers open the door for his secondary pitches to take over.
I’ve talked plenty about “Money Pitches” in the last few weeks and Kingham’s slider is as unbelievably good as you’ll find:
|Pitch Type||# Thrown||O-Swing %||Zone %||Whiff %||BAA|
It’s a small sample of just 106 pitches, but overall the pitch has done wonders for Kingham, getting strikes both on an off the plate and earning whiffs just under a fourth of the time. Absurd numbers, which make sense when seeing it in action:
It’s a nullifying pitch against right-handers and works best when landing along the outside corner or under the zone. Looking back at the checklist depicting the blueprint for success, let’s say this pitch ticks off both boxes for secondary pitches…but just against right-handers.
For left-handers, Kingham has something special for that.
After his first two starts, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kingham’s changeup. It had some moments, but overall wasn’t working well and Kingham elected to throw it under 10% of the time.
However, the pitch has steadily improved with each start, resulting in these slow balls against the Cubs:
I showed you the table for Kingham’s slider, let’s have some fun and add changeups as well:
|Pitch Type||# Thrown||O-Swing %||Zone %||Whiff %||BAA|
While Kingham doesn’t throw it for strikes as often, the pitch holds a near identical whiff rate, while limiting batters to just a .136 BAA. And like his slider, it is reserved mostly for specific-handed batters, but as you saw in the GIF above, he has no fear using it against right-handers and has had success there as well.
Between his changeup and slider, Kingham has a pair of weapons that can steal strikes and putaway batters easily. There is also a curveball in the mix that he utilizes as a surprise strikeout offering, but in the long haul, I don’t expect it to ever settle above a 10% usage rate as it currently holds a low 7% mark.
With a pair of fastballs to command both sides of the plate and change eye-levels, Kingham has a solid foundation to open the door for two stellar secondary pitches. We talk about upside, about pitchers that can make a “big splash” in fantasy when they get their opportunities, and Kingham fits the bill. We are still waiting for an official decision on Chad Kuhl’s injury and if Kingham is getting the call, but don’t wait for the word. Kingham is more than likely available on your wire right now and you should grab him before it’s too late.