Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Nickerson joined the Tigers as a 7th round choice in the 2006 draft, immediately after helping lead his Oregon State Beavers to a College World Series Championship. Prior to joining OSU, Nickerson completed an extremely successful high school career that included being named a 2-time 1st Team All-State, 3-time 1st Team All-League, and his league's Co-MVP during his senior season.
As a sophomore, Jonah burst on the national scene with a 2.13 ERA and a 9-2 record that led to 1st Team Pac-10 and 2nd Team All-American honors. Nickerson was also named as the Bill Coyle's Award winner as the Beavers top pitcher in 2005. After a successful summer pitching for Team USA (2.00/1.17), Nickerson returned to OSU and experienced another highly successful season. With high expectations – including several Pre-Season All-American nods – Nickerson continued to perform well; posting a 10-4 record including 3 complete games, and a 2.67/1.19 line.
After working extensively from February through June, Nickerson was handled carefully, logging only 13 innings for the Oneonta Tigers.
Nickerson brings four pitches that range from barely average, to a tick above average; with none of them having the potential to develop into plus offerings. His fastball and cutter are his top two pitches, both of which he controls well to both sides of the plate. His fastball previously sat in the 90-92 range, but has since dipped to the 86-88 range on a regular basis. The fastball-cutter combination are spotted to all parts of the zone, and can be worked up and down in the zone with ease.
Nickerson compliments his hard stuff with a curve and change combination that is just good enough to keep hitters off balance. Neither pitch has swing-and-miss potential, but they should be enough to get hitters out in front, and drive it into the turf. One focus of his first full season will be to make strides with at least one of his two slower offerings.
His makeup is exceptional, with a bulldog mentality that often forces him to remain competitive in all situations. He will never give up on the mound, and that may prove beneficial as he moves up the minor league ladder. Nickerson is an average athlete who fields his position fairly well. Jonah profiles as a #4/5 starter down the line, and he'll have to see progress with either his curve or change to maintain that projection.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG SS-A
Nickerson's arm appears to be one of freakish ability to remain healthy. He never seems to be excessively sore, even after being worked hard during the CWS. Nickerson will need to be watched closely in the coming season. Lingering effects of such a hefty workload could be present.
Nickerson should work as one of the veteran members of the West Michigan rotation in 2007, teaming with fellow collegiate draftees Chris Cody and possibly Lauren Gagnier. The friendly confines in Grand Rapids should be kind to Nickerson, and I expect him to excel without much trouble.
His overall ceiling will hinge entirely on his ability to continue developing his breaking pitches. If one of them comes along nicely, he could bump his projection up to a solid mid-rotation starter, but that seems like a stretch at this time. Look for Nickerson to be an outstanding Class-A pitcher, but he'll have to pass the infamous Double-A test before I become a true believer in his abilities.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.