The Pittsburgh Pirates made a splash on the day of the tender/non-tender deadline, trading Gold Glove winning catcher Jacob Stalings to the Miami Marlins in exchange for three players.
Stallings leaves Pittsburgh a fan and clubhouse favorite with a penchant for coming up with a big hit in key situations and after a season in which he was maybe the best defensive player in the majors regardless of position.
The 61st overall pick in the 2020 draft out of Ball State, Nicolas wrapped up his first professional season this past year and didn’t waste time working his way through the Marlins system.
Nicolas started the year at high-A before being promoted to double-A Pensacola to round out 2021.
Through two levels, Nicolas posted a 6-4 record with a 4.18 ERA while striking out 136 batters in 99 innings pitched. He threw 64% of his pitches for strikes and held opponents to a .216 average and .713 OPS.
The big draw to the big righty his is plus-plus fastball which has been clocked at 100 MPH in shorter outings and sits in the mid 90s.
Featured in this clip is his fastball, which he uses to great effectiveness, especially in this outing from July 20thagainst the Cedar Rapids Kernels. Nicholas can work both sides of the plate with his fastball, generate swing and misses and paint the corner in a way that leaves hitters nearly helpless.
In this start, the righty struck out 10 batters over six innings, allowing three hits, one run, and a lone walk.
Nicholas is a true-four pitch pitcher, mixing in a slider, curveball and changeup to his repertoire. While his slider has ‘above average’ potential according to MLB Pipeline, he still shows that he has work to be done.
He certainly showed the potential of the pitches, generating some helpless swings, but also left some over the plate including the lone home run he allowed against the Kernels.
Nicholas posted some interesting splits between high-A and double-A, as his ERA (5.28 to 2.52) and opponent’s average (.246 to .167) both dropped with the step up in competition, but he also saw his walk and strikeout rates head in the wrong direction with the step up.
With only 39 1/3 innings at double-A last year, it seems more than likely Nicholas will end up with the Altoona Curve to begin 2022. That only adds to the potentially stacked rotation for the Curve that would now include Nicholas to go along with Carmen Mlodzinski, Quinn Priester, Michael Burrows and maybe Tahnaj Thomas.
According to MLB Pipeline that’s potentially four of the Pirates top 15 prospects in the rotation to start the year, and Nicholas makes five in the top 30.
While Thompson will see time in the majors this upcoming year, and scouts are still getting the grasp on what Scott is as a hitter (was drafted as a two-way player), Nicholas has the electric fastball that should allow him to at the very worst be a late-inning reliever.
With the emphasis on the bullpen in the most recent playoffs, if that’s the lowest he can land, that’s a good start.