Saturday February 25th, 2012
MLB reports – Jonathan Hacohen: How do the San Francisco Giants do it? When you think of quality starting pitching, the names Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner are bound to enter the conversation. The Giants appear to have a factory where they are able to produce quality pitching prospects at will. Well, you know that we love discovering and analyzing top prospects on the Reports. We are fortunate to have found a great one in the Giants system. Starting pitcher (of course). Left-handed (of course). Stands 6’4″ (of course). Michael Kickham is a name that you will be hearing for many years to come in baseball. A 6th round pick of the Giants back in 2010, Kickham is going into his 3rd professional season. As a 22-year old in the South Atlantic League (A-Ball) in 2011, Kickham certainly looked like a poised veteran. He made 21 starts, throwing 111.2 innings. Kickham struck out 103 and only walked 37 batters, for a SO/BB ratio of 2.78…and this is only the tip of the iceberg. Considering the lack of depth of pitching in major league organizations these days, it baffles my mind how the Giants keep doing it. The key is two-fold. Good scouting/drafting and player development. Clearly the Giants knew what they were looking for when they drafted Michael Kickham. Now he is on the fast-track to joining Bumgarner and company in the Bay area.
Get ready to learn the Michael Kickham story. From the draft to his journey thus far in the minors. Find out what makes a top MLB prospect tick. What motivates him and drives him to succeed. Michael Kickham gives us a peak into the mind of a pitcher…and a lefty one at that. Today on MLB reports, we are proud to present our exclusive interview with Giants prospect pitcher, Michael Kickham:
Who was your favorite baseball player growing up, that you most idolized and patterned your game after?
Growing up I really liked watching Johan Santana pitch. He was so dominant with the Twins and being a fellow lefty, he was really fun to watch. He made a rehab start with Savannah and threw against us in the SAL league playoffs, which was a very neat experience seeing him throw in person.
Which current MLB star do you most admire and why?
There are two lefties I like to study during the year: Cole Hamels and Clayton Kershaw. Both are similar in height to myself and both have unbelievable stuff. I’ve had the chance to be around Hamels the last couple offseasons and pick his brain about pitching. One of the nicest guys I’ve met and he was glad to answer any questions I had. With Kershaw, it’s a little odd admiring someone who is the same age as you, but what he’s done at such a young age is amazing. Those are the guys I strive to be most like. Both are such good competitors and were so consistent start after start this past season.
Reflecting on your career to-date, what are your proudest accomplishments on the baseball field?
My proudest accomplishment thus far is throwing well in the playoffs this past year and giving my team a chance to win that first game in the series. Also just being able to make adjustments and work hard on my mechanics to make improvements at the end of the year. Change is not easy, and I take pride in the fact that I could learn something in the middle of the season, work hard at it and make it pay off.
What are your goals going into the 2012 season?
After having to spend some extra in spring training this past year due to a blister, my first goal is to stay healthy through spring training and break camp on time. After that, I just want to be consistent. I want to have a strong start this year and use the momentum of success to put together a solid year from start to finish. Last year I started well and just hit a rough spot that stemmed from inconsistencies. It was necessary though as part of my growth as a pitcher; it caused me to make some adjustments. After making the adjustments, I finished the year strong and I want to continue that in 2012.
Were you surprised when you were drafted in the 6th round- did you have any expectations on the draft and who would draft you? What was the process like signing with the Giants?
The draft was a crazy time. You hear so much speculation about where you’re going and who’s going to take you, that its hard to have a solid expectation. I couldn’t have been happier when the Giants selected me. The organization has a great reputation of producing quality arms from within their own farm system. Going to an organization that has such a strong emphasis on pitching is something that I am fortunate for; I couldn’t be with a better organization.
What do you consider your greatest baseball skill(s)?
I would consider my competitiveness my greatest baseball skill. I love being on the mound and controlling the game. There have been a few times when I have let my emotions show and that’s something I need to work on. I want to be as calm as possible no matter the situation.
What facets of your game do you most wish to improve upon?
I definitely want to limit my pitches and pitch deeper into games. I want to go 7 innings each game. When I make a start, I want the bullpen to know that I’m going to pitch deep into a game and that they will only have to get 6 outs to close the game. I understand that there will be some situations were it’ll be best for me to turn the game over to the bullpen early… but more times than not, I want to be able to take stress off the pen.
Looking at your 2011 season- are you happy with it? What went wrong and what can you improve upon?
I’m happy with how I finished the season, especially throwing well in my playoff start; overall though, I wouldn’t say I was happy. I want to show that I can produce a good full season and not just the last part of one.
Long term do you see yourself as a starter or reliever?
I want to be a starter and see myself as one, however, whatever role the organization wants me to fit in and gets me to the big leagues quickest- I will gladly do. I do like the routine of being a starter and hope I can continue being one throughout my career.
Did you always see yourself as a lefty pitcher? Did you ever consider other sports based on your height?
Being left-handed, I was limited to the OF, 1B and pitcher positions. OF was boring to me, too much standing around and you can go an entire game without getting a ball hit to you. Pitching was so appealing to me because your a part of every play. I like controlling the game and setting the tempo. I played basketball in HS, but always realized that baseball would give me the best opportunity to get a college education. Now, I’m fortunate enough to be playing it for a profession.
If you had to look into a crystal ball, when do you see your expected time of arrival in the big leagues and what do you think you need to do most to get there?
You never know whats gonna happen, but my goal is to get there in the next couple years. I can’t control anything except how hard I work and that I go out there every time wanting to prove that I have the ability to pitch in the big leagues.
Has pro ball been everything you expected it to be thus far?
Pro ball has been awesome! Wven though the minor leagues isn’t the most glamorous, I love the travel and being around my teammates. You gotta pay your dues down on the farm and that just motivates me that much more to get to the highest level one day; I think it makes players have a better appreciation coming up through all the different levels.
What do you do for fun when you are not playing baseball?
Off the field I like to read, listen to music and dabble in the occasional Call of Duty midnight marathon. I’m a big music guy, I often have my headphones in. I’m not trying to tune everyone out and be unsociable, I just enjoy listening to music; currently been listening to a lot of the Black Keys. Reading is just a way to escape reality and put my mind somewhere else and I think everyone needs that from time to time.
Do you have a favorite pre-game meal?
I don’t really have a set pre-game meal; but it’s never heavy, never fried food or a greasy hamburger. I usually go with something light, like a turkey sandwich and some fruit. I don’t like having that feeling of being weighed down when I pitch.
With the last name Kickham, I can’t wait to hear your nickname…
I actually don’t have a clever nickname. I get told a lot I should have played soccer or kicked field goals. I feel like I picked the right sport though.
***Thank you to Mike Kickham for taking the time today to speak with us on MLB reports. You can follow Mike on Twitter (@MikeKickham43). Good luck on the upcoming season Mike. Giants fans are looking forward to watching you kick some batters ***&!***
Jonathan Hacohen is the Lead Baseball Columnist & Editor for MLB reports: You can follow Jonathan on Twitter (@JHacohen)
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