Right-handed pitching prospect Chad Kuhl made his major league debut for the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday, going five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, giving up four hits, four walks, and three runs while fanning five. Kuhl has not received the same type of attention as fellow Pirate prospects Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, but Kuhl has all kinds of sleeper markers and can't be ignored.
From the 2016 Baseball Prospect Book:
Chad Kuhl, RHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Bats: R Throws: R HT: 6-3 WT: 215 DOB: September 10, 1992
2015: Grade C
There’s some sleeper potential here. Drafted in the ninth round from the University of Delaware in 2013, Chad Kuhl had a strong inning-eating campaign in the Florida State League last year. He has a very nice low-90s sinker and his curveball/change-up secondary arsenal has improved since college. This isn’t knock your socks off stuff but he profiles well as a back-of-the-rotation starter or long relief type who could do surprisingly well if he has a decent defense behind him.
That sleeper potential looks even better now, Kuhl logging a very fine 2015 season in Double-A. The stats were virtually identical to 2014, a good sign moving up a level. Scouting reports have changed slightly; what was described as a curve in 2014 was called a slider in ’15, but broadly speaking there are no changes in the profile or projection, except he’s proven at a higher level now. Grade C+. (Late Note: there are some reports of Kuhl hitting the mid-90s at times last year).
Kuhl posted a 2.58 ERA in 14 starts for Triple-A Indianapolis before his promotion, with a 59/16 K/BB in 76 innings. This was all very much in line with his previous minor league performance and he has little left to prove down there.
Kuhl's fastball was between 92 and 96 MPH in his debut yesterday, averaging 94. This is a tick up from what he was doing when he was drafted out of Delaware. He relies primarily on the breaking ball as his second pitch and uses the change-up sparingly; he only threw two change-ups according to Pitch F/x yesterday along with 60 fastballs and 19 sliders. Increased use of the change-up may be necessary as hitters grow used to his sinker/slider approach.
While Kuhl doesn't have the tremendous upside of Taillon or Glasnow, he should not be under-estimated and could be a very useful inning-eating starter. He'd rate a Grade B- at this point and you can make a case for a straight B.