Pittsburgh Pirates: Two Underrated Prospects Performing


The Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system has performed very well so far this year.  There are certain prospects who have really taken strides forward that many fans may not have noticed thus far.  So, which pitcher and hitter have been the best so far this year?

As mentioned on this site over and over, you cannot have too much pitching.  The Pirates over the years have acquired a lot of young, projectable right-handed pitchers.  One in particular is right-handed starting pitcher Chad Kuhl. The six-foot-three 215 pound pitcher was a ninth round draft pick in 2013 out of Delaware.  On the year Kuhl owns a 2-0 record with an International League best 1.10 ERA).  In his last start he threw six innings of shutout ball.

What makes Kuhl so effective is his low walk rate and his ability to generate ground balls.  His strike out to walk ratio is an even three, meaning for every nine strikeouts he only walks three batters.  This is about the number you like to see.  Also, his ground-out to air-out ratio is 1.66 on the year.  This means he gets 1.6 ground outs before giving a fly out.  For comparison, Charlie Morton who is a ground-ball pitcher had a career 1.58 GO/AO rate in the minors.

Kuhl will provide quality depth for the Pittsburgh Pirates pitching rotation.  He will never be a “big time” arm by any means, but he has proven the ability to get batters out consistently and should be able to do the same at the Major League level. His projection would be as a number three starter as he does not have the pure stuff to be a top of the rotation candidate.

Last year’s first round pick, Kevin Newman, has really shown why the Pittsburgh Pirates were ready to invest a first round pick into him.  The shortstop out of the University of Arizona was always viewed as good contact hitter in college, but many were not sure if he would continue to hit in pro-ball. So far, so good in High-A Bradenton!  On the year Newman is hitting a robust .355 with an .837 OPS.

The biggest question surrounding Newman is whether or not he will develop enough power to produce at the MLB level.  So far he is slugging .427 which would be considered average for an everyday starter.  The other question is whether Newman will be able to stick at shortstop.  So far this year he has done well, but some scouts think that as he continues to mature he will not have the range at shortstop.  One thing we do know is that Jordy Mercer has been able to play a sufficient shortstop without having a lot of a range.  If Newman can hit, and make the plays he should, the Pirates will stick with him there.

Related Story: Top 5 Right-Handed Pitching Prospects

Chad Kuhl and Kevin Newman are at different places in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.  Kuhl is in AAA and seems poised to make his Major League debut at some point this summer.  Newman on the other hand is proving that he deserves a promotion to AA soon.  Kuhl is not viewed as a top 15 prospect, but a quality organization depth piece while Newman will likely be in the organization’s top-10 prospects by the end of the season.  However, both are performing extremely well at their respective levels and both should be watched over the next few weeks as promotions start to occur.

Look back next week for two more prospects who have continued to have strong seasons overall, what they have done well, and what they have to work on as they develop.

All Stats Courtesy of BaseballReference.com