Pittsburgh Pirates: Plenty of Teams Inquired on Chad Kuhl

Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports /

News: The Pittsburgh Pirates have a lot of young pitchers currently.  One made a solid contribution in 2016, and other teams took notice.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Chad Kuhl was the first rookie up in the 2016 season.  He saw the big leagues before top prospect Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow. He also beat out other notable prospects who were further along like Trevor Williams and Steven Brault.  Of the group, Kuhl was the lowest rated prospect, but made a more significant impact than Williams and Brault. In a way, this makes sense.

The former ninth-round pick had a career 2.75 earned run average in his minor league career.  He finished his minor league career by posting a 2.80 earned run average for the Pittsburgh Pirates Triple-A affiliate.  The best thing about Kuhl, was his ability to command his pitches.  At Triple-A, he posted a 1.7 BB/9 innings pitched.  Now he only struck out 7.1 hitters per nine innings, but his real strength came from pitching to contact and creating weak outs.

Kuhl was able to show some promise at the big league level in 2016.  The righty pitched to a 4.20 earned run average in 70.2 innings pitched. One positive note, his FIP was under four for the year and he kept his walk rate to 2.55 per nine innings pitched.

One thing that held Kuhl back, was his ability to get left-handed hitters outs. Left-handed batters hit .291 against Chad Kuhl in 2016. This included a .496 slugging percentage and a wOBA of .363. Also, 5 of the 7 home runs that Kuhl allowed in 2016 came against left-handed batters.  This is mainly because he lacks a quality third pitch.  His third pitch would be his changeup.  While the changeup is adequate against righties, it is important for a righty pitcher to use it against lefties.  If not, he may end up in the bullpen.

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Even with that, the 2013 draft pick is still just 24 years of age, and is still developing.  Kuhl could show up this spring with an improved changeup.  If fans know Kuhl struggles to get lefties out, he likely knows that also.  He likely has put work into trying to develop a more legitimate third pitch.

Because he is relatively young, and has shown promise, there apparently were teams who called on him before last summer’s debut.  Adam Berry, the Pittsburgh Pirate beat writer for MLB.com, learned this info.  Here is what he shared in an article:

"Three weeks ago, Huntington reiterated the Bucs could have parted with Kuhl in a number of situations — “some big, some small,” he said — but refused to do so."

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This is interesting.  Of course, there is not a lot of details here, but it shows that the Bucs are high on Kuhl.  If they believed he would be nothing more than a bullpen arm, then they likely would have been more willing to trade him.  Meanwhile, there would not have been a lot of interest around the league in him if other teams believed he could not be an effective starter.  As of now, Kuhl has the inside track to be the Bucs 4th or 5th starter in the Opening Day rotation.  It seems the Pittsburgh Pirates really like him, and plan on having him moving forward.