Chad Kuhl is the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month for July

We could have easily had a three-way tie for the Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month in July. Radhames Liz dominated in Indianapolis, with one down start skewing the fact he allowed one run over 30 innings in his other five starts. Yeudy Garcia was dominant as well, with an 0.70 WHIP and .155 BAA in his 30 innings of work, allowing just three earned runs in six outings. If you think one of them should have won, well you don’t have to try to convince us, we went back and forth a few times before finally settling on Chad Kuhl, who posted an 0.60 ERA for the month.

Kuhl didn’t have the WHIP/BAA numbers the other two players had, but he kept runs off the board all month long.  He threw shutout ball over six innings on July 5th, then followed that with another six shutout innings against first-place Bowie, the team that Altoona is now chasing in the standings. On the 17th, facing Richmond on the road, Kuhl made it three straight appearances with six shutout frames.

In the lone outing in which he gave up runs, Kuhl allowed two earned over 5.2 innings. He does have a bit of an excuse, as Edward Salcedo made three errors behind him (then made a fourth after Kuhl left), which extended Kuhl’s pitch count in three different innings. He finished off his month with another six shutout innings, this time allowing three hits, no walks and striking out six batters. With a little defensive help, we might be talking about an 0.00 ERA this month.

Kuhl throws a three-pitch mix, fastball, changeup and slider. After his last start, Altoona pitching coach Justin Meccage said that he is starting to put together the whole package. Throwing all of his pitches for strikes and keeping the ball down in the zone. When he is on, Kuhl is more of a ground ball pitcher, who picks up his share of strikeouts. He has improved his slider this year and it is now a pitch he can use to put away batters, so he has seen a slight increase in his strikeout rate over last year at Bradenton. His fastball has recently touched 97 MPH, and it sits in the 93-95 range.

The idea is to get through innings quicker, so by working down in the zone more, he was able to post a 2.05 GO/AO ratio in July. That was easily his best month this year and it helped him put up that 0.60 ERA. For the year, he has a 1.59 GO/AO ratio, compared to 1.85 last year. If he continues his recent trend, he’ll be right back where he was last year and that’s a terrific ground ball ratio for AA.

Kuhl had a solid season last year and has improved this year while moving up a level. He is also 22 years old in AA, which makes him about two years younger than the average age throughout the league. He gets lost behind the big names in the organization and the rotation at Indianapolis already looks crowded for next year.

If Kuhl can keep improving, then he will force his way to the majors, whether it is with Pittsburgh or through a trade. The Pirates won’t make the move too soon with him, but you can picture a mid-90’s/wipeout slider combo in the bullpen someday, especially from someone who keeps the ball on the ground. For now, you have someone who looks more and more like he will be able to reach that back of the rotation projection that was put on him when he was drafted.

PITCHERS OF THE MONTH BY LEVEL

Indianapolis – Radhames Liz, RHP (1.29 ERA, 41:11 K/BB, 35.0 IP)

Altoona – Chad Kuhl, RHP (0.61 ERA, 23:6 K/BB, 29.2 IP)

Bradenton – Montana DuRapau, RHP (1.06 ERA, 17:1 K/BB, 17.0 IP)

West Virginia – Yeudy Garcia, RHP (0.90 ERA, 23:5 K/BB, 30.0 IP)

Morgantown – Jonathan Brubaker, RHP (2.43 ERA, 23:5 K/BB, 29.2 IP)

Bristol – Christopher De Leon, RHP (2.16 ERA, 23:12 K/BB, 16.2 IP)

GCL – Gerardo Navarro, LHP (1.48 ERA, 23:6 K/BB, 24.1 IP)

  • I’d rather have Liz in the majors over J.A. Happless.

    • Couldn’t agree more

    • According to the fangraphs numbers, Liz is making $1 mil and has a WAR of -0.3 so far or (-$2.3 mil); Happ is making $8.9 mil has a WAR of 1.1 presently which equates to $9.1 mil. And, coming from the AL to the NL, there is always that 11% benefit. During his career, he had some serious control problems but seems to have gotten beyond that the past few years in Toronto and Seattle.

      He is only at a GB rate of 42%, but I think the Pirates will move him more in the direction of using the 2 seamer as much or more than the 4 seam FB. Right now he is at about a 4/1 rate of 4 seam/2 seam. Only time will tell, but IMO this could be a very good signing for the Pirates.

  • piraterican21
    August 1, 2015 1:56 pm

    Impressive, strike outs is a stats that most of us like to see, but the stuff and the Pirates 3 pitch or less approache prevents most of our minor leaguers not name Glasnow from putting up big k numbers.

  • A 22-year-old capable of dominating AA, touching 97, and able to get groundballs and K’s? Seems he should be in tier 3 or at least tier 4 of your rankings.

    • One thing to remember is that he had a 3.11 ERA in May, 4.12 in June and wasn’t touching 97 when we made the top 50. As his pitching coach said, he turned a corner in his last start, now he has to maintain it. He probably would be 3-4 spots higher now because something significant has happened over the three starts since we made the list, but in reality you want to see someone prove it over a long time before you make any rash decisions in rankings. That’s why we only do three updates a year, anything else is overthinking small sample sizes

      • John: Hard to understand how he went into the season as the P2 #24 Prospect, and after a solid performance at an upper level of the minors is not even in the P2 Top 30 at this point?

        Thank you and all of the rest of the team for the great work at P2 and the constant upgrades to the system and the volume of research presented.

        • He is #36 right now(as of July 16th when the top 50 was updated) and five of the guys ahead of him were draft picks this year, plus Yeudy Garcia dropped him and Adrian Valerio moved ahead of him, when they weren’t considered for our December list due to the fact they had not made their debut in the States, which we try to avoid unless the scouting reports are too good(Heredia, de la Cruz). That is seven spots right there.

          Tarpley and Brault weren’t in the system then, so there are two more spots. Basically he dropped nine spots from them without doing anything. The Pirates haven’t graduated anyone to the majors this year, and with only two players traded away since the book, all they have done to their system is build it up.

          Also as I pointed out, small sample sizes can kill. You saw what Kuhl did last night, correct? If he made that start a day earlier, he isn’t even in discussion for the pitcher of the month, it’s either Garcia or Liz winning

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