This is a free article, and part of our daily live Spring Training coverage. Pirates Prospects will be covering Spring Training in Bradenton all year, in both the big league camp and the minor league camp. We will have multiple updates per day, keeping track of everything through the end of camp. If you enjoy this article, sign up for a subscription to the site, with rates lower than $2.25 per month. We also have our 2016 Prospect Guide available, which has profiles on every prospect in the system, along with an exclusive look at our top 50 rankings. Subscribers get this year’s book at a discount, with a free book for Top Prospect subscribers. I really have nothing else to say to promote the site. You’re probably ready to read the article. Maybe you didn’t even get this far. Anyway, I’m really excited about Chad Kuhl’s future, especially after hearing great things about him for the last year from basically everyone, and seeing great things from him live. That includes the video below. By now I’m almost certain you skipped over all of this for the article, but I’m hoping you don’t skip over his video, because it was pretty impressive. Enjoy the article! I’m going to go find more people to interview for future articles.
BRADENTON, Fl. – You probably could have guessed that the approach the Pirates took this off-season with their starting pitchers was influenced by their prospects in Indianapolis. The addition of Jon Niese could give the Pirates a pitcher for up to three seasons, but the addition of Ryan Vogelsong looked like a short-term rental, adding a guy who would only be a rotation option for the first half.
The latter move is questionable, and I’ve written many times that the Pirates should have gone for someone with higher upside than Vogelsong. But the Pirates do have a talented group in Triple-A, and that should make the second half rotation very interesting. As for impacting the off-season plans, Clint Hurdle pretty much confirmed that theory today.
“We do have depth, and it’s real,” Hurdle said. “I think one of the reasons that we’ve worked through our off-season as we have is knowing that there’s Taillon getting better, there’s Glasnow getting better, there’s Chad Kuhl getting better.”
Taillon and Glasnow are obvious guys who could help this year. When they’re ready, the Pirates will almost certainly make room for them in the rotation. Chad Kuhl seems to be separating himself from the other group and getting closer to the Pirates’ group. Maybe it’s a coincidence, but every time Hurdle or Neal Huntington talk about that Triple-A group, they group Kuhl with Taillon and Glasnow as guys who can help this year, could start with Indianapolis at the beginning of the year, or as guys who have stood out and improved in general. And I heard last summer that the Pirates refused to deal Kuhl when other teams were asking about him, while also getting some pretty strong reviews about Kuhl from opposing scouts who saw him.
That’s not to say that Williams and Brault have no shot, as they’re both very talented pitchers. The first three guys are more power options, while Williams (right-handed) and Brault (left-handed) rely more on deception and command of their pitches, using almost an identical approach from different sides.
“Like the acquisition of Trevor Williams,” Hurdle said. “Like what we’ve heard from the people that had scouted him. Our guy got a hand on him, Justin Meccage got a hand on him in the Fall League for a couple of weeks. Like what we saw the first year from Brault. Like it a lot. His development.”
It might be difficult for those two to make it to Pittsburgh this year in the rotation. That would actually be an alarming situation if they did make it up, as this would mean that the Pirates saw some major struggles and/or injuries from the rest of the rotation options, including some of their long-term guys. But those two are definitely in the plans for the future.
“At some particular point in time, opportunities may present themselves, whether it’s through health, through performance,” Hurdle said on the guys behind Glasnow and Taillon. “There are certain things they are going to be able to control when they go down. One of them is not when they get called up, and we share that with each and every one of them in the entrance interviews.”
The Pirates had to find some short-term options for their rotation this off-season, but the group in Indianapolis this year will prevent that from being an issue in the future.
“We definitely feel good about the progression of our guys, putting themselves in place to be the next tier.”
Here is video of Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Trevor Williams throwing bullpen sessions today at Pirate City.
Kuhl has a sinker that can hit upper 90s, and has a lot of movement. Most of his pitches looked good today, but I loved that last one. I wrote about Kuhl a few weeks ago.
Brault has so much cutting action to his sinker, and it looks like his slider is coming along. I wrote earlier this week about his progression.
Williams has a ton of movement on his pitches, and to the naked eye, it looks like he’s got some good separation from his fastball to his changeup, which is good, as the sinker only sits in the 89-92 MPH range. I haven’t written about Williams yet this Spring, but really liked how the article I did on him turned out in the AFL this off-season.
Replacing Jim Benedict
Along with the Pirates’ pitching prospects getting some attention for their success, the pitching coaches are also getting some attention. There was a lot of concern that losing Jim Benedict would be a massive blow to the organization in the future, and losing Benedict definitely hurts, especially when it comes to special projects in extended Spring Training like Vance Worley or Clayton Richard. But the organization is set up so that other pitching coaches carry the same philosophy and approach as Benedict.
“It’s almost like a mentality of what we have from the position player pool and the pitching pool, next man up,” Hurdle said of replacing Benedict’s impact. “Justin Meccage has every skill to become a very good Major League pitching coach. Scott Mitchell has put himself in a position to be a very good Major League pitching coach. The seamlessness we have of our coaching and teaching abilities, wherever our players go, it’s so like-minded. It’s the Pirate way. It’s not Ray’s way. It’s not Mitch’s way. We’re all actually connected to it. And the player actually has ownership of it as well. And I think the refreshing thing for them is when they move, there’s not a different pitching coach philosophy, or a different pitching philosophy.”
When Benedict left, I profiled several coaches who would be able to step up and replace his coaching. Mitchell and Meccage were two of the guys I profiled. Mitchell is the Minor League Pitching Coordinator, was brought in under Benedict, and actually pitched under Benedict in the Expos system in the mid-90s. Meccage was also brought in under Benedict, and now appears to be Mitchell’s right-hand man, along with coaching in Altoona and Bradenton the last two years, which is where Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl spent their time.
Hurdle also highlighted the Triple-A pitching coach, Stan Kyles, who interviewed for the Arizona Diamondbacks’ bullpen coach job this off-season.
“Stan Kyles has come and done a wonderful job at the Triple-A level,” Hurdle said. “He actually interviewed for a Major League job this off-season. And I know people have asked about Mitchell. We’ve had so many numerous hits, not just on the pitching side, but our organization over the winter. Our programs are cohesive. They’re complete and connected, and I think the players are getting the benefit of it, as well as us.”
Kyles will have a big role this year with that Triple-A group, but with the way this system works, he will just be continuing the development that they’ve already been receiving at every level prior to this.