Morning Report: Chad Kuhl and Minor League Playoffs

Usually we talk about the starting pitchers down in the minor league section below, but I wanted to take a couple paragraphs to single out the season that Chad Kuhl is quietly having at AA. He doesn’t get the attention he should for what he is accomplishing this year. Kuhl has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the system since being drafted in 2013. He had a 2.11 ERA in 13 starts for Jamestown in 2013, which helped earn him a promotion over West Virginia to Bradenton. Last year, he had a 3.46 ERA in 28 starts, throwing 153.1 innings. This season, he has a 2.73 ERA going into tonight’s game, which ranks him eighth in the Eastern League.

Kuhl got off to a strong start, just like every starter from Altoona this season. They dominated the month of April and Kuhl had a 1.64 ERA. He was respectable in May, with a 3.52 mark, but then dropped to 4.11 in June. He really only had one bad start in the month, plus another when he threw a lot of pitches over four innings. Since July started, he has returned to his April form.

In three starts, Kuhl has throw 18 innings without an earned run, so he tries to keep that streak going tonight. He’s also posted numbers similar to his career marks, with a .256 BAA, 1.26 WHIP and 1.54 GO/AO ratio. So at this point, he has managed to get to AA at the age of 22 and have success, doing it in his second full season of pro ball. He’s definitely on the right track to put himself in line for a spot start if needed late next season, or he can move to the bullpen in the majors, where his fastball that reaches 96 MPH in a starting role, can really play up.

As for the playoffs, we added both Bradenton and West Virginia to the playoff push this morning because both teams have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs right now. It’s always better to have players experience winning and playoff baseball as they climb up the ladder. For West Virginia, I’m sure the players consider these next three days to be big games. They are on the road in Lakewood now, playing a team that they have a three game lead over in the division. The Power have been great during the second half, but they have also played 16 of their 25 second half games at home, going 13-3 at Appalachian Power Park.

If any of the short-season teams suddenly look like playoff contenders we will add them too, but right now it looks like the best shot for the playoffs are the four full-season teams. That is significant because we sometimes see players added to rosters a level higher late in the season if their team isn’t in the playoffs, but the team at the next level has a chance. With all four teams competing, we may not see a lot of those late moves(last week or so) that we usually see. The only team that would likely see late season help is the Power, and with a lot of high draft picks in Morgantown, they are the likely targets. We still have about 6-7 weeks left in the seasons, so a lot can change between now and then.

One last note about minor league playoffs and I was reminded of it last night when Tyler Glasnow pitched and helped Altoona to a win in the first game of a doubleheader. That was before they staged a miracle comeback in game two, scoring seven runs in the bottom of the seventh(last inning during doubleheaders) to overcome a 7-1 deficit. Altoona picked up 1.5 games yesterday and moved into a tie for first place. Glasnow, Max Moroff and Eric Wood were teammates on the 2012 GCL Pirates that won the league title. They all went to the West Virginia Power in 2013 and made the playoffs, then moved up to Bradenton and made the playoffs again last year. Basically, the three of them win wherever they go together. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Altoona made the playoffs this year, but their string of seasons together will likely end this season, as Wood looks like he will have to repeat AA next year unless he has an incredible finish to his season.

Pirates Game Graph

Source: FanGraphs

Playoff Push

The Pirates trail by five games in the division to the Cardinals. They have a 3.5 game lead for the top wild card spot.

Indianapolis is 6-4 in their last ten games. They have a three game lead in their division.

Altoona is 4-6  in their last ten games and they are now tied for first place with Bowie.

Bradenton is 7-3 in their last ten games. They trail Palm Beach by two games in the standings.

West Virginia is 6-4 in their last ten games and they have a three game lead in the division.

Today’s Schedule

Today’s Starter and Notes: The Pirates lost 3-1 to the Royals on Tuesday night. Charlie Morton will get the ball in game three of the series, facing 2014 Pirates’ starter Edinson Volquez. Morton will be making his 11th start of the season. In his last outing, he gave up four earned runs over six innings against the Brewers. Volquez has a 3.28 ERA in 112.1 innings. In his last three starts combined, he has allowed four earned runs.

In the minors, there are a couple interesting starters going today besides Chad Kuhl. Adrian Sampson gets the afternoon start for Indianapolis and it’s an important one, as he tries to build on a second straight strong outing last time out. Sampson is likely first in line if the Pirates need a starter, but only if he shows more consistency than he has had prior to his last two games. Speaking of building on a strong outing, Luis Heredia pitched his best career game in his last start, looking nearly unhittable through six innings and striking out a career-high eight batters. Dario Agrazal Jr. is a sleeper pitching prospect, who gets good results with a fastball that hits low-90’s, coming from an easy, repeatable delivery which allows him to have excellent command. You can view last night’s prospect watch here.

MLB: Pittsburgh (54-39) @ Royals (56-36) 8:10 PM
Probable starter: Charlie Morton (4.34 ERA, 19:32 BB/SO, 58.0 IP)

AAA: Indianapolis (57-40) vs Scranton/WB (51-47) 1:35 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Adrian Sampson (3.75 ERA, 27:87 BB/SO, 111.2 IP)

AA: Altoona (52-45) vs Erie (37-58) 7:00 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Chad Kuhl (2.73 ERA, 30:68 BB/SO, 105.2 IP)

High-A: Bradenton (48-48, 16-10 second half) vs Dunedin (43-53) 6:30 PM (season preview)
Probable starter: Luis Heredia (5.53 ERA, 20:30 BB/SO, 53.2 IP)

Low-A: West Virginia (54-39, 17-7 second half) @ Lakewood (48-45) 11:05 AM (season preview)
Probable starter: Colten Brewer (5.29 ERA, 21:63 BB/SO, 68.0 IP)

Short-Season A: Morgantown (15-16) vs Brooklyn (18-12) 7:05 PM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Dario Agrazal Jr. (2.53 ERA, 5:20 BB/SO, 30.0 IP)

Rookie: Bristol (11-14) @ Burlington (13-15) 11:00 AM (season preview)
Probable Starter: Neil Kozikowski (3.50 ERA, 4:10 BB/SO, 18.0 IP)

GCL: Pirates (14-11) vs Yankees1 (8-15) 12:00 PM (season preview)

DSL: Pirates (18-26) vs Braves (18-26) 10:30 AM (season preview)


Here are highlights for the win in Indianapolis. Why should I choose which is the best when I can give you all the highlights from the game in one? Enjoy.

Recent Transactions

7/22: Pirates purchase contract of Pedro Florimon. Wilfredo Boscan optioned to Indianapolis. Jayson Aquino designated for assignment.

7/22: Barrett Barnes promoted to Altoona.

7/22:  Gorkys Hernandez assigned to Indianapolis on rehab.

7/21: Jonathan Schwind and Andrew Lambo assigned to GCL Pirates on rehab.

7/21: Harold Ramirez activated from temporary inactive list. Robert Stock placed on disabled list.

7/20: Jordy Mercer placed on disabled list. Pirates recall Brent Morel. Corey Hart transferred to 60-day DL.

7/20: Tito Polo activated from temporary inactive list. Jeff Roy promoted to Bradenton.

7/20: Kelson Brown activated from Indianapolis disabled list.

7/19: Junior Lopez assigned to Bradenton. Oderman Rocha assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/19: Pirates place Gorkys Hernandez on DL. Wilfredo Boscan recalled.

7/19: Jose Tabata activated from temporary inactive list.

7/17: Pirates sign Jake Thompson. Assigned to Indianapolis.

7/17: Pirates recall Jaff Decker.

7/17: Oderman Rocha assigned to Bradenton. Junior Lopez assigned to GCL Pirates.

7/16: Hunter Morris placed on Indianapolis disabled list. Jose Tabata placed on temporary inactive list.

7/15:  Pirates sign Ryan Nagle. Assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Pirates sign Brandon Waddell and James Marvel. Waddell assigned to Morgantown.

7/15: Luis Paula sent to Morgantown.

7/13: Wilfredo Boscan sent to Indianapolis.

7/13: Seth McGarry assigned to Morgantown.

7/13: Omar Basulto assigned to GCL. Mike Wallace transferred from GCL to Bristol.

7/12: Wilfredo Boscan recalled. Steve Lombardozzi optioned to Indianapolis.

7/10: Pirates sign Ike Schlabach and assign him to GCL.

7/10: Pirates sign Tate Scioneaux and assign him to Morgantown.

7/10: Jesus Paredes promoted to Morgantown. Oderman Rocha sent to GCL.

7/9: Pirates sign Sherton Apostel.

7/9: Mike Wallace sent from Bristol to GCL.

7/7: Clay Holmes added to Bradenton roster. Harold Ramirez placed on temporary inactive list.

7/7: Trace Tam Sing added to West Virginia roster. Tito Polo placed on temporary inactive list.

This Date in Pirates History

Six former Pittsburgh Pirates players born on this date, plus two trades of note. We start with the best player born on this date and you can find a full bio for him here. George Gibson was a catcher for the Pirates from 1905 until 1916 and held the team’s record for games caught until Jason Kendall passed him nearly 100 years after Gibson played his first game. He was a key member of the 1909 club, catching 150 games that season, which is almost unheard now under much easier conditions for a catcher. When he first came up to the majors, he was strictly a defensive specialist with a cannon for an arm, but he turned himself into a respectable hitter. Gibson also managed the Pirates after his playing career was over, finishing with a 401-330 record.

Other players born on this date include pitcher Ryan Vogelsong, who played for the Pirates in 2001 and 2003-06. Also infielder Denny Gonzalez(1984-85, 87-88), first baseman R.C. Stevens, who was a member of the 1960 World Series champs. Sheldon LeJeune played center field for the 1915 Pirates and he may have the best arm in team history. Back in 1910, he broke the world record for longest throw in the air at 426 feet. He was a great minor league player, but his success never carried over to the majors. Finally, Jack Glasscock played for the 1893-94 Pirates and he is an under-appreciated star from that era, one who hit .290 career, with over 2000 hits and played a terrific all-around game.

As for the two trades made on July 22nd, we have the 1988 deal that sent outfielder Darnell Coles to the Mariners for outfielder Glenn Wilson. We also have the 2009 deal that saw Adam LaRoche go to the Red Sox for shortstop Argenis Diaz and pitcher Hunter Strickland. You can read more about these deals and the bios of the five players mentioned above, in the link at the top of this section.

  • I like the attention on Kuhl, because he seems to be a true “sleeper” in that he was a college kid who lasted until the 9th Round and has been on a fast track through the minors so far. Anyone who can throw 96 and still have a 50% or better GB Ratio is a find. I consider Glasnow the best option we have for 2016, and this kid could truly be the 2nd.

  • John, I just saw Cubs DFA’d Clayton Richard, you think Pirates have any interest in bringing him back to organization? Would he have to be added to 25-man roster if claimed?

    • John Dreker
      July 22, 2015 1:19 pm

      If he’s claimed, he has to go on the 40-man roster.

      • That doesn’t sound like a bad idea. They could put him back in the AAA rotation for depth. If someone else claims him besides the Pirates, how outraged am I allowed to be? Do the Cubs get their dollar back if he goes back to Indy?

        • Why would you be outraged at all? Judging by his performance for the Cubs, we have multiple arms that could come and perform more competently than that. Although, it could be way better. Can you imagine if Taillon, Kingham, Cumpton, and Sadler weren’t on the DL right now? The Indianapolis Indians would have a rotation better than some ML rotations.

          • I’m sorry. My sarcasm translated poorly. It was a half hearted shot at those who were furious when Richard was traded to the Cubs.

            • Haha, this is where that sarcastic font would come into play. I think I read too many comment sections on too many different pages. I’ve read too many people make similar comments and were dead serious. Smizik’s page is the worst. Some of his reader’s are so ill informed but I’m uncontrollable drawn to it. It’s the Under The Dome of sports columns. It’s maddening and doesn’t make sense and yet I keep going back.

              • I’m retiring from sarcastic posts. Occasionally I’ll leave a sarcastic comment and check back 3 hours later to find 11 people calling me the dumbest person alive leading me to believe that my sarcasm sucks. I read some of the PPG but get too frustrated. If I get Ron Cook telling me one more time that the Snider trade crippled the team I’m going to drive 5 hours to egg his house. But the Daily News and Inquirer out here are no better.

        • John Dreker
          July 22, 2015 3:14 pm

          Nope, that dollar was turned into 100 pennies so Scrooge McNutting could dive into a pile of money and swim around

  • Logan Hill is off to a good start with the Black Bears. I don’t recall hearing anything about him. Wouldn’t expect to as a 25th round pick, but is he a legitimate sleeper candidate, or just off to a good start with limited at bats?

    • Tim talked about him in the prospect watch and I basically have the same idea. It’s nice to see, but it’s a small sample size and he’s 22 in short-season ball, so you really can’t take much from it