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Where there’s a Will, there’s a K

Power arm Will Kincanon is growing from a thrower to a pitcher — and that spells trouble for any batter

Credit due: Kincanon ascribes his bulldog mound mentality to his father, a former pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds system.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

When Will Kincanon joined the White Sox organization in 2017, he was a hard-throwing righthander who oozed potential. He used his power arm to fashion a middling slash line in his first two professional seasons, going 5-2 with a 3.77 ERA and 1.259 WHIP while striking out 71 and walking 28 in 64 13 innings.

This year, Kincanon reimagined his will, transitioning from being a thrower to a pitcher.

“I have way more feel for the game and what I need to do to hitters now,” Kincanon tells South Side Sox. “I have a plan of attack, and I’m not going to deviate from it because the previous guy got a hit. I just feel more comfortable on the mound, in every scenario.”

The metamorphosis has been obvious, as Kincanon was chosen to represent the Winston-Salem Dash in this year’s Carolina League All-Star Game.

“I was excited, and happy for my teammates who got selected as well,” Kincanon says. “I probably threw the ball as bad as I possibly could have during the game (six hits, five earned runs, two walks and three strikeouts in two innings), but all in all, it was an honor, and something to be proud of.”

Kincanon credits his father, Will Sr. (a former minor league pitcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization) for being his mound mentor: “I learned from him. He always wanted to see toughness, for me to compete and not give in to anybody. I really feel like I’ve taken that into my game.”

When Kincanon strides to the mound to close out a game for the Dash, opposing hitters have to be fearful. His chiseled jaw looks straight out of central casting for a hit man, cowboy on a cattle drive, or other miscellaneous tough-guy role. When he throws his first high-octane sinker, it’s no longer a façade — hitters know he means business. Although Kincanon passes the eye test as resident badass, he thinks of himself as the biggest character in the bullpen — a role he suggests was relinquished when Vince Arobio was promoted to Birmingham.

Kincanon, a lifelong Sox fan who resides in Riverside, Ill., was selected by the White Sox from Indiana State University in the 11th round of the 2017 MLB draft and signed to a $150,000 bonus. This could ultimately turn out to be coup for the South Siders, as many thought Kincanon could have been taken as early as the fifth round.

The sturdily-built 6´3´´, 230-pound hurler throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and possesses a power pitcher’s arsenal. His main weapon is a heavy sinker (one-seam fastball) that he throws 94-96 mph and touches 97. This pitch is the reason batters have great difficulty elevating the ball against him (56% ground ball rate). Additionally, Kincanon throws a swing-and-miss slider at 83-86 mph, and a newly developed curveball at 78-80 mph. He occasionally uses a “show-me” changeup, but considers himself to be predominantly a three-pitch pitcher.

“My out pitch would definitely be my slider, especially in strikeout situations,” Kincanon says. “But if I’m looking for a ground ball or weak contact, I can rely on my sinker.” Kincanon also believes that the further development of his curveball will be a key to ensuring success as he continues his ascension through the ranks.

Part of walking the tightrope as a relief pitcher is the way in which a few bad outings can blow up a pitcher’s slash line for weeks. Over Kincanon’s four worst outings last season, he combined to pitch six innings and give up nine earned runs. Removing these outings lowers his season ERA from 3.63 to 1.57.

In 2019, Kincanon has managed to avoid falling prey to the big inning, as he has allowed more than one run only once. This newfound consistency has resulted in encouraging results, as Kincanon has authored an impressive stat line. In 43 innings he has allowed 36 hits and 22 walks while striking out 54 batters, en route to a stellar 1.88 ERA. His 54 strikeouts ties him for third on the team, and is the most among Dash relievers. And his swinging strike rate of 16% helps to demonstrate his excellent swing-and-miss stuff.

However, not being one to rest on his laurels, Kincanon recognizes areas in which he can improve.

“My main focus lately has been not allowing free base runners,” he says. “I’m trying not to beat myself with walks.”

Kincanon suggests that finding a comfort level in his second full season has been instrumental in his development: “I had plenty of goals going into the season. I wanted to be healthy the whole year. I wanted to be consistent, the best I can possibly be every time I step on the mound. I wanted to lower my walk rate, but it’s much more about staying focused in every at-bat and pitch.”

Although the reliability of the major league bullpen has been questionable in recent White Sox lore, fans should be excited about the plethora of quality bullpen arms currently working toward the South Side. Kincanon is a player White Sox fans should be thunderously rooting for. He is a homegrown kid trying to crack the roster of the team he has cheered for his entire life. And it doesn’t hurt that he has a big-league arm and an embraceable personality.