Saturday, January 18, 2014

Dr B's 2014 Giants Top 50 Prospects: #24 Mike Kickham

Mike Kickham, LHP.  6'4", 220 lbs.  DOB:  12/12/1988

AAA:  7-7, 4.31, 110.2 IP, 49 BB, 90 K's, GO/AO= 1.64.
MLB:  0-3, 10.16, 28.1 IP, 10 BB, 29 K, GO/AO- 1.46.

Mike Kickham has always been a guy who tends to underperform his peripheral stats and his scouting report.  Nowhere was that more dramatically displayed than his 28.1 IP for the Giants last year.  He was drafted out of Missouri St. in the 6'th round of the 2010 draft.  His first full season was a conservative placement in low A Augusta where he started slow but finished strong.  He skipped San Jose and went to AA Richmond in 2012 where he had good results but struggled with his control walking approximately 1 batter every 2 innings.  2013 found him in AAA Fresno, a very tough pitching environment.  He struggled at first, but seemed to be making slow but steady progress.

His callup to the majors was probably a bit premature due to injuries in the Giants' rotation.  He was clearly in over his head.  He showed impressive stuff and looked good in individual innings, but once the opposing team put runners on base, he seemed to have no idea how to pitch his way out of trouble.  He bounced back and forth between SF and Fresno most of the season pitching pretty well in Fresno, terrible in SF.  Finally in September, he made several relief appearances allowing just 1 ER in 4.2 IP.  Then, in his last appearance on the final day of the season, he got into trouble again facing the Padres.  Bochy just left him out there to get pummeled.  At times during that inning, it looked like the mound was the last place on Earth he wanted to be.  He was clearly frustrated, unfocused and just throwing the  ball up there.  He finally pulled himself together and got the final two outs of the inning with a flourish, so hopefully walked off the mound on a positive note to end the season.

It's a bit tough to see what the future holds for Kickham at this point.  The Giants rotation is set.  Yusmeiro Petit is probably the first backup option and Edwin Escobar seems to have passed Kickham on the depth chart.  There is a thundering herd of pitching prospects coming up behind Escobar, so there is not much of a window.  I think he still has room to refine and polish his game and can still be a back of the rotation starter for some MLB team.  The Giants may decide to put him in the bullpen in Fresno and groom him to be a lefty specialist who can also face some RH batters, kind of like Jeremy Affeldt.  He should be back in Fresno for 2014 either in the rotation or bullpen.  His most likely outcome with the Giants is an eventual trade.


  1. Looking at the numbers here, it seems he had better MLB stats, all except GO/AO...with the usual caveat of small sample size. I wonder if it's all inner, mental...because not being able to pitch out of trouble involves both pitch selection which is a joint effort between the pitcher and the catcher, and execution of the pitch, which is all on the pitcher. If he can just get over that...maturity, experience and opportunity...

  2. One thing to note on his profile - he was a pretty nice overslot bonus - the Giants do play draft games from time to time, they're just low profile about it. Giving up 8 HRs hurt a lot. When he got hit, he got hit hard. I wouldn't put it past the Giants to make him the 3rd lefty in the pen out of camp though, if he has a good ST.

    1. The Giants bullpen just seems so set with just the 2 LHP's: Romo, Casilla, Lopez, Affeldt, Hembree, Petit with 1 slot up the grabs between Machi/Dunning/Kontos. I don't see the Giants trusting Kickham with any kind of MLB gig out of ST short of an injury to Lopez or Affeldt.

    2. I think that the answer might lie between the two. I agree with DrB that there is no way the Giants hand Kickham a spot out of spring training over Machi or Kontos short of an injury to one of the lefties, there just are no spots right now. And I think Cordier would be in the mix too, with Machi and Kontos, as a long shot. The Giants made a big point about wanting to improve our bullpen for 2014, so the focus should be on that, and Kickham don't see like an improvement because of his struggles last season. But given that the Giants even picked up in 2012 and then held onto Mijares all last season, the Giants clearly do like having the three different lefty roles, so I see Shankbone's point.

      I think Kickham will be starting, just to get more chances to pitch, but could be switched by mid-season, perhaps to clear rotation space for the fast movers among our AA starters, and would be considered for a bullpen spot sometime in the second half, and if not already, definitely by Sept call-ups. He was very dominant in short stints, so I think that he could be a serviceable lefty starter at some point, once he gets used to being a major leaguer, as BLSL noted, I agree that his blowups appear to be a mental problem.

      But as DrB noted, with the mass of better pitching prospects probably coming to the fore very soon, he could get lost in the mix and end up elsewhere. I see him being in a similar position to Correia, able to do well for the Giants in a relief mode but a downgrade in the rotation once the others develop and advance, and either he accepts a bullpen role - he could replace Affeldt or Lopez in a couple of years - or they end up trading him and get a prospect in exchange. I still don't understand why the Giants released Correia and not try to get something for him, he was very effective as a reliever, but that possibility is there for Kickham as well.

    3. I can accept that letting Correia go for nothing was just a mistake by the Giants. Nobody is perfect. They just have to be right more often than wrong and do more good things than bad.

  3. I would like to see Kickham get the third lefty. That would mean we've not needed to go to FAs to get there and he's young. My only thought is you also have Hembree and Dunning competing for spots and I just don't see Bochy relying on three rookies in the pen. I think Hembree and Dunning really do need to get promoted, though.


  4. Does Kickham pitching from the stretch have anything to do with his exploding on the mound??? To me it seemed like he labored with runners on base...imo