Just in the Nickerson of Time

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.

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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