Now 26 years old, Kingham was widely regarded as one of the game’s top 100 overall prospects back in 2014-15 and looked to be on the precipice of the Major Leagues when a torn ulnar collateral ligament torpedoed his 2015-16 seasons. Kingham underwent Tommy John surgery in 2015, tossing just 31 1/3 innings that season and just 46 frames late in the 2016 season upon completing his rehab.
The 2017 season marked his first healthy season since 2014, and while he didn’t dominate, the 2010 fourth-rounder did turn in a solid 3.95 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 with a 45 percent ground-ball rate. He’s off to a torrid start to the 2018 season — as MLBTR’s Jason Martinez noted when including Kingham in the first 2018 edition of Knocking Down The Door — having logged a microscopic 1.59 ERA with a 27-to-7 K/BB ratio and a 49.1 percent grounder rate in 22 2/3 innings. He’s yet to allow a home run this year and allowed only eight in 2017.
[Related: Pittsburgh Pirates depth chart]
It could very well prove to be a spot start for Kingham — MLB.com’s Adam Berry suggested as much, on Twitter — though it would seem as though there’s at least one possible starting job that Kingham could eventually seize. The rotation jobs of Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams and Chad Kuhl all seem safe, even with Taillon’s struggles in his past two outings, though southpaw Steven Brault’s spot is less solidified. In four starts this year, Brault has posted a 5.06 ERA with a 12-to-11 K/BB ratio in 21 1/3 innings. He did open the year with three innings of scoreless relief work, but his overall body of work has not been especially impressive to date.
Regardless of whether Kingham arrives for a day or for the rest of the season, he’ll fall shy of a full year of Major League service time, so the Pirates will be able to control him through at least 2024. It’s worth noting that the 2018 season represents Kingham’s final option year, despite the fact that he’s never pitched in the Majors. The Buccos had to add him to the 40-man roster two offseasons ago in order to protect from being selected in the Rule 5 Draft (which he quite likely would have been). That’ll make it all the more important for Kingham to establish himself, to an extent, in the Majors this season. He’ll be out of options next spring and have to make the Opening Day roster, be exposed to waivers or traded to a team willing to carry him.