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To recap the countdown so far:
We continue the countdown with the number 16 prospect, Chad Kuhl.
16. Chad Kuhl, RHP
Kuhl has been a guy who has flown under the radar in the Pirates’ system. A lot of that is due to the fact that he’s a sinkerball pitcher who doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts and relies almost exclusively on a pitch to contact approach and getting quick outs. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a profile that is very common throughout the organization.
The thing that separates Kuhl from other sinkerball pitchers is his four-seam fastball. He consistently has been hitting 96-97 MPH with the pitch over the last two years. He still primarily relies on the sinker, but having another fastball that can reach upper 90s can definitely help, and the change in speeds could even allow his 90-93 MPH sinker play up.
One problem for Kuhl is the lack of a good out pitch. He focused on his slider development a lot in 2015, and went from the point of not being confident with the pitch early in the season, to getting some outs at the end of the season. His second half was amazing, with a 1.83 ERA from mid-June to the end of the year, with even better results in July, when he only allowed four extra base hits all month. He eventually moved up to Indianapolis for the Triple-A playoffs.
Kuhl drew the attention of several rival scouts this year, and the Pirates showed how much they liked him by holding him back from potential trades, instead being willing to deal guys who were rated higher than him coming into the season. He’s got the upside to be a starter in the majors, with a very effective sinker that has generated 58% ground balls over the last two seasons. If the slider develops into an out pitch, and he learns how to effectively use his four seam fastball, he could become a sleeper number three option.
Kuhl should jump to Indianapolis at the start of the 2016 season, pitching out of the rotation. He’s got a chance to make the majors at some point this year as a depth option. The Pirates have a lot of quality starting options, which could hold him back from a future in their rotation. However, if the stuff beyond the sinker continues to develop, he’d end up a guy who could force his way into the mix.