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Pirates All 40: Kyle Nicolas A Budding Relief Option

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Kyle Nicolas, Pittsburgh Pirates

This is one in a series of stories breaking down members of the Pittsburgh Pirates 40-man roster.

The Pittsburgh Pirates acquired right-handed reliever Kyle Nicolas as part of the Jacob Stallings trade in 2021, bringing the 61st overall pick of the 2020 draft into the fold in doing so.

A member of the Pirates’ Top 30 prospects, Nicolas made his big league debut late in the 2023 season, posting an ugly 11.81 ERA in 5.1 innings across four games. Those numbers are a tad misleading, as the Chicago Cubs roughed Nicolas up for six runs across just one out recorded in his debut. After that, the 6-foot-4, 223 pound right-hander rebounded with one run allowed across three appearances to end the year.

Kyle Nicolas’ Arsenal

Nicolas sports excellent stuff with a high 90s fastball, a slider that touches 90 and a curveball that clocks in in the mid 80s. He seems to overthrow the curveball at times, with the offering anywhere charting anywhere between 80 and 90 miles per hour during his time in the majors: defining that pitch better could help him improve.

That’s the overarching theme with Nicolas, as shaky command limits his ceiling significantly. While he possesses a traditional starter’s arsenal—he also throws a 40-grade changeup from time to time—and spent most of his time in the minor leagues as part of the rotation, a career minor league WHIP of 1.38 will make it hard for him to pitch late into games.

Nicolas averaged less than five innings per start at every stop he made in the minors before converting to a reliever with Triple-A Indianapolis and then in Pittsburgh. After getting roughed up as a starter in Indianapolis, the move to the bullpen Nicolas him compile a 3.67 ERA across 27.0 innings (17 appearances).

It’ll be interesting to see whether the Pirates want to kick the tires with Nicolas moving forward, giving him another chance to earn a starting role, or if they want him to stick to the bullpen.

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