If baseball continues to trend in the direction that it has been – less offence – then pitchers with average or fringe-ish stuff have a much better chance of putting together a solid Major League career. Right-hander Jonah Nickerson is one of those minor league pitchers whose career is looking a little bit brighter.
Currently in High-A Lakeland, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, Nickerson is continuing to build a solid pro career after being a very good starter at Oregon State University. The 23-year-old was drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 draft and has “fringe-average stuff” (86-88 mph fastball, curve ball, cutter, change-up) but he has solid command and knows how to pitch.
Nickerson did not pitch for the Tigers organization in his draft year, but he entered full-season ball in 2007. In 150 innings in low A-ball, he allowed 9.32 H/9 and 2.27 BB/9 but struck out just 6.93 batters per nine innings. Moved up to High-A ball in 2008, Nickerson has continued to improve. In 74 innings, he has allowed 8.76 H/9 and 1.95 BB/9. His strikeout rate has remained about the same at 6.81 K/9. He could be even more successful if he induced a few more ground balls, as he currently has a 1-1 ratio with fly balls. It might be a good time to give him the Double-A test.
No, a slow offensive third of a season in the Major Leagues does not suddenly make Nickerson a potential No. 1 or 2 starter. However, he is someone to keep an eye on as a possible future No. 4 or 5 starter, especially given the lack of top prospects in the Detroit system.
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