Pirates’ Kyle Nicolas Stands Out At Minor League Camp

Righthander Kyle Nicolas drew attention in minor league spring training camp.

When asked who stood out to him on day one of camp, catcher and 2021 first overall pick Henry Davis singled out Nicolas.

“The fastball exploded, and everything was pretty nasty,” Davis said. “It was all wherever he wanted it.”

The Pirates acquired Nicolas in November when they traded Jacob Stallings to the Marlins. Pirates pitching coordinator Josh Hopper liked what he saw in his first impressions of Nicolas.

“It is a really, really good skill set and a great kid,” Hopper said. “Very receptive (to instruction). Any time a dude stands on the mound and looks like he’s playing catch with my 7-year-old and it comes out 94 (mph), it’s a good thing.”

Nicolas throws an easy 93-95 mph four-seam fastball and touches 97 with a high spin rate that generates a lot of whiffs. In addition to his fastball, he throws a curveball, slider and changeup.

The 6-foot-4, 223-pound Nicolas dealt with control issues in his first pro season in 2021. That showed up as a 15% walk rate in 39.1 innings after moving to Double-A Pensacola.

Nicolas said that the biggest thing he learned was a lesson on mentality.

“Definitely the mindset on the mound,” said Nicolas, a 2020 second-rounder out of Ball State. “How to attack hitters, when to pitch aggressively and maybe when not to.”

The 23-year-old said he learned how to have confidence in his stuff, how to take care of his body to prepare for eventually pitching 150 or more innings and how to prepare daily.

Expect Nicolas to head to Double-A Altoona this year, where he’ll work to improve his control and aim to give the Pirates an eventual second starting pitcher.




— The Pirates’ Stallings trade brought back Nicolas and outfielder Connor Scott to add to the Pirates’ loaded farm system. The same trade also netted righthander Zach Thompson, who is almost certain to join the big league rotation.

— The Pirates opened minor league spring training with a new look. Their hitters faced batting practice from two alternating pitching machines. One was set to fastballs and the other to slower spin, with pitches coming from each side of the mound. The drill is aimed to get hitters practicing in-game conditions all the time, simulating shifting release points and alternating speeds that they would see from a live pitcher.

Bubba Chandler, drafted by the Pirates in the third round in 2021 and signed for $3 million, will be worked as a two-way player. Chandler was set to play baseball and football at Clemson, but instead will be a righthander and shortstop in the Pirates system. The pitching will come first, with Chandler working to improve his hitting and fielding. His hitting looked top-heavy in camp, with a good bat path and raw power, but an unincorporated lower half. His fielding movements at shortstop looked smooth, as he covered a lot of ground with ease, with good glove work and the arm strength to make throws across the diamond.

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