Mid-Season Top 40 Prospects: #12

#12: Mike Kickham – LHP, 24 yo, AAA: Kickham has had an interesting year, to say the least. After posting a 3.05 ERA in 27 starts at AA Richmond in 2012, he made a few spring training appearances this year and was assigned to Fresno for Opening Day. It was pretty well known that he or Chris Heston would get the first looks if the Giants needed a starter at some point. Kickham had mixed results in 10 starts. However, he’d found a pretty good groove in mid-May (when the Giants just happened to need a starter) and got the call when Chad Gaudin was placed on the DL. Kickham went right into the fire, making his ML debut in Oakland against the red-hot A’s. He didn’t do well, giving up 4 ER in only 2.2 IP. He’s been back and forth from Fresno and San Francisco ever since, losing all three of his starts at the major league level. Lately, Bochy’s called on him as a long reliever, and the Giants indicated they may give him a longer look out of the bullpen. In fairness to Kickham, however, all of his big league starts have been on the road… Oakland, LA, and Cincinnati.  That’s a pretty rough way to start your major league career. For that reason alone, I think he deserves a longer look (as a starter) in San Francisco.

Kickham was a 6th round draft pick out of Missouri State in 2010, so he certainly didn’t come out of nowhere. Oddly though, after a full season in Lo-A Augusta in 2011, the Giants promoted him straight to Richmond, skipping Hi-A San Jose in the process. That doesn’t happen very often, so maybe the org. thought his stuff was ready to play at a higher level. Coming into 2013, Kickham earned some mixed reviews on the prospect lists. MLB.com, for example, ranked him #12 in the Giants’ system, while I saw him slotted as high as 4th on a couple other sites. We’ve seen what he can offer at this point. Funky three-quarters delivery, low-90’s fastball, slider and curve with lots of movement, and a changeup he tosses in from time to time. His stuff can be live enough at times to do this, while at other times so flat it gets crushed by Mark Ellis. For a guy with swing-and-miss stuff, Kickham sure has gotten hit hard during his brief time in the bigs. In 18 IP, he’s given up 30 hits and 6 home runs. That’s really bad. But he’s also struck out 21 batters in those same 18 innings, so he’s definitely got the potential to be dynamic if he can harness his control.

I’ve written quite a bit more about Kickham than most other prospects on this list. Not because I think he’s any better or more interesting, but because he’s the only player on this list who has seen time at the big league level. We’ve all seen him play against the highest competition, so there’s a bit more to say about him.  He’s certainly still a work in progress, but here’s my take on him right now. If the Giants continue to sit in the cellar come August and September, Kickham needs to be in the rotation, auditioning for a job on the 2014 team. It’s pretty clear the Giants will be looking to fill some combination of Timmy, Zito and Vogey’s rotation spots, so there’s no reason Kickham shouldn’t be able to prove whether he belongs or not. The same can be said of Eric Surkamp if he’s healthy. Either way, I hope Kickham can figure out his control. He’s kind of a cool looking guy with his mullet and goggles, and I think he’d be a guy the fans could get behind. If he can’t find that control, however, he’s probably destined for a short career in the bullpen.

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