The SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization have released right-hander Nick Kingham, Naver Sports reports (translation via MyKBO’s Dan Kurtz, on Twitter). The former Pirates top prospect was limited to just two starts before going down with an elbow injury that has yet to sufficiently heal.
Kingham, 28, signed with the Wyverns back in November — agreeing to a $500K base salary and a $200K signing bonus to play in Asia for the first time in his career. The injury prevented him from getting much of a chance, though, and Kingham’s Wyverns stint will end with eight earned runs and a 6-to-4 K/BB ratio in just 10 2/3 innings.
Back in 2014-15, Kingham was touted not only as one of the Pirates’ best prospects but as one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. He ranked 64th on Baseball America’s Top 100 list in the 2013-14 offseason and landed at No. 75 on MLB.com’s top 100 a year later. The 2010 fourth-rounder breezed through Class-A Advanced and Double in 2013 (2.89 ERA, 9.0 K/9, 2.8 BB/9 in 143 innings) and enjoyed similarly strong results between Double-A and Triple-A in 2014 (3.34 ERA, 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 in 159 frames).
Kingham made just six starts in 2015 before going down with elbow pain that eventually proved to be due to a UCL tear, however. The right-hander had Tommy John surgery that May and was sidelined until July 2016. Kingham eventually made it to the Majors in 2018 — three years after he first looked to be on the cusp of MLB readiness — and wowed Bucs fans when he took a perfect game into the seventh inning of his debut effort. Things went downhill from there, however, and Kingham finished his rookie year with a 5.21 ERA in 76 frames.
Kingham never found his footing in multiple looks with the Pirates, as he was designated for assignment after a combined 6.67 ERA in 110 2/3 innings in his original organization. He did notch a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings of relief with the Blue Jays late last year, although that came with a 5.51 FIP and an ugly .296/.360/.506 opponents’ batting line. Kingham won’t turn 29 until November and has a solid Triple-A track record under his belt, so he could still resurface as a depth piece for a big league club or perhaps get another look in Asia once his elbow is back to 100 percent.
As for the Wyverns, Kurtz notes that they’re looking around for a replacement option for Kingham, so it’s possible that we’ll see a familiar name eventually head over to South Korea to take his place on the roster.