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.
Nickerson saw limited action with the Oneonta Tigers after signing; being watched closely because of his heavy workload during the collegiate season. In five relief appearances for Oneonta, he notched a 2.77 ERA and twelve strikeouts in thirteen innings. The Tigers promoted Nickerson to West Michigan for the 2007 season, where he started off slowly, but turned it on in a big way during the season's second half. His second half surge was highlighted by a 4-0 record and 1.09 ERA in five July starts. For his efforts, Nickerson was named MiLB.com Pitcher of the Week for the week of July 23rd, and TigsTown's West Michigan Pitcher of the Month. In total, Jonah's eleven wins were good enough to tie for 6th in the Midwest League, while his two complete games and one shutout were good enough to tie for first in the circuit.
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. During the 2007 season, Nickerson demonstrated that he could vary the velocity of his fastball to suit the game situation. 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. Some strides were evident in his change-up, as he was able to keep left-handers at bay with greater regularity.
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 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 his college career. After showing exceptionally durability in his first full pro season, the kid gloves could come off Nickerson in 2008.
While there is a slim chance Nickerson could help fill a sparse rotation at Double-A Erie, the more likely scenario has him working a bulk of the season in the Lakeland rotation, in similar fashion to Burke Badenhop last season. Nickerson has the polish and mental makeup to handle an assignment to Double-A, but the Tigers may be reluctant to push him there.
With success similar to that which he displayed during the second half of 2007, Nickerson could make himself a viable option for Detroit at some point late in the 2009 season, though sometime in 2010 is much more likely. With back of the rotation stuff and a resilient arm, Jonah could fill any number of roles at the highest level.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.