Between text messages, e-mails, and Twitter questions tonight, the most popular question I received was about Chad Kuhl’s velocity. There were questions wondering if it was a hot radar gun. There were questions wondering if he had always thrown with that much velocity, hitting 96 MPH frequently tonight. (The TV broadcast said 97 a few times, but MLB.com doesn’t have anything above 96. The gun might have been a little hot, but I’ve seen Kuhl hit 97 before, so I didn’t question it.) There were questions about whether I’ve ever seen that velocity from him.
It might have been surprising to see a former 9th round pick who gets lost behind Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon coming in and sitting 94-95 and touching 96 on six different pitches. But that’s only if you aren’t familiar with Chad Kuhl. I’d also say that no one who subscribes to this site should be surprised at these results, although Kuhl has flown under the radar a bit here as well.
Part of this is because Kuhl has improved so rapidly. I covered him a lot in Bradenton in 2014, and the report at the time was a 90-93 MPH sinker, a four-seam fastball that could touch 96, a changeup that was just starting to see some work, and a slider that needed improvements.
When I saw Kuhl at the start of the 2015 season in Altoona, the report was similar. But in the second half of the 2015 season, we started getting a lot of favorable reports. Two of our writers saw Kuhl hitting 96-97 MPH much more often, and working in the 92-95 range. I later found out from Kuhl that it was his sinker that was getting this velocity, rather than his previous situation where the sinker would sit in the low-90s and the four-seam would show up with the velocity. The slider and changeup still needed some work, but the fastball became a plus offering in the second half of 2015.
This year, the biggest difference I’ve noticed is that the slider is improving, and Kuhl can now use it better for strikeouts when he’s ahead, or for early strikes. It’s now an above-average pitch, pairing well with his sinker. The changeup is still lagging behind the other two pitches, but much better than what I saw the previous two years.
It’s pretty amazing the amount of progress Kuhl has made in the last year. He went from your typical sinkerball pitcher with one good pitch, looking like a future reliever, to a guy sitting 94-95 MPH with his sinker, and hitting 96-97, while showing much improved secondary stuff, and looking like a future starter.
When I look around at other outlets and see the reports on Kuhl, I notice a lot of outdated information. People have caught up that the velocity is improved, but the reports are still lacking. And yet when I talk with scouts who have seen Kuhl, I get a much different story, and that’s what is reflected on this site.
There’s a reason we’re so high on Chad Kuhl — or about as high as you can get for a future number four starter with a high floor. He’s made a ton of progress in the last year, but we’ve been there every step of the way to track that progress. It didn’t slip past us that he had a velocity increase, or an improved slider. It didn’t slip past the scouts we’ve talked to either. And there’s a bit of a shameless plug going on here, that our subscribers are getting better information here than anywhere else. But it also explains our stance on Kuhl, and why we seem higher on him than most.
I hope to see more of Kuhl, but wouldn’t be surprised if he gets sent down today, since the Pirates don’t need a fifth starter anytime soon, and could call up an extra bat for their AL road trip this week (I’m hoping for Josh Bell as the DH). After that, Gerrit Cole might be back to reclaim his spot. But Kuhl looked good tonight, all things considered, and it would be good to see him get his shot in the majors.
As with every Sunday First Pitch, we recap the biggest stories of the week. If you’re not a subscriber, you not only missed that Kuhl can hit 96-97 MPH, but you also missed all of this Pirates coverage. Subscribe today to get all of our daily articles.
10. Steven Brault wrapped up his rehab and returned to Indianapolis this week. Abigail Miskowiec covered Brault’s final rehab start in Morgantown, discussing the rehab process with him after the start. Brian Peloza covered his return start with Indianapolis on Saturday.
9. The new draft system has one big benefit: Players get signed very quickly. In the past, the tough negotiations would last into mid-August. Now? The toughest negotiations last until the end of June/early July. The Pirates got one of their prep pitchers signed this week, inking fourth round pick Braeden Ogle. They still have Nick Lodolo and Max Kranick that they need to sign.
8. Kevin Newman recently was promoted to Altoona, and has started off strong at the new level. Sean McCool talked with him about his rehab process from his orbital injury, and his promotion to Altoona.
7. Ke’Bryan Hayes had a great month of April, but struggled in May. Abigail Miskowiec wrote about why he has been struggling since his hot start, and what he can do to get back on track.
6. Mitch Keller is having a fantastic season this year, putting up some great numbers while also showing improvements with his mechanics and his stuff. Abigail Miskowiec wrote about how he’s starting to emerge as a potential future ace.
5. The Pirates miss Francisco Cervelli, which is very obvious. It’s also very clear that they miss his offense from the catcher’s position. But Ed Giles breaks down just how much they miss him behind the plate, looking at the advanced defensive metrics compared to his replacements.
4. Here is our preview and top 10 prospects for the Bristol Pirates, led by Adrian Valerio.
3. Here is our preview and top 10 prospects for the GCL Pirates, led by the 2016 prep pitchers.
2. Adam Frazier got called up this weekend, and it could be a long-term assignment to have him on the bench, especially if he continues hitting the way he has in his first few games. I wrote The Book on Adam Frazier, giving you everything you need to know about him. Alan Saunders talked with Frazier and wrote about how he’s trying to carry his success over to the big leagues.
1. Chad Kuhl made his pro debut tonight, leading the Pirates to a victory over the Dodgers. We wrote a lot about Kuhl this weekend. I had The Book on Chad Kuhl. Brian Peloza wrote about what was impacting him in Indianapolis during his most recent starts. Alan Saunders looked back at how Kuhl added the two-seam fastball that got him to the majors.