Pittsburgh Pirates: Chad Kuhl Having a Strong Spring

CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Chad Kuhl #39 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during a spring training game at Phillies Spring Training Ball Park on March 05, 2021 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images)
CLEARWATER, FLORIDA - MARCH 05: Chad Kuhl #39 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during a spring training game at Phillies Spring Training Ball Park on March 05, 2021 in Clearwater, Florida. (Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images) /
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Three starts into his Grapefruit League season right-handed starting pitcher Chad Kuhl is having a strong spring for the Pittsburgh Pirates

During the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season pitcher Chad Kuhl had one goal – take a MLB mound and pitcher. After missing the final three months of the 2018 season and all of 2019 due to Tommy John surgery just simply toeing the rubber with the Pittsburgh Pirates would be a big deal for Kuhl in 2020.

On his way back from injury Kuhl pitched in 11 games with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020 with nine of them being starts. In these 11 games Kuhl logged 46.1 innings, posting a 4.27 ERA, 5.48 FIP and a 5.10 DRA.

While Kuhl’s FIP and DRA were not pretty, his numbers were skewed by a small sample size. While his 14.2% walk rate and 1.55 HR/9 were career highs, all of his numbers were distorted by one disastrous start.

Against the Royals on September 13, Kuhl allowed 9 earned runs with six walks and a home run in 2.1 innings pitched. If you take away this start Kuhl finishes the season with a 2.66 ERA, 12.2% walk rate and 1.43 HR/9. While you still want to see that walk and home run rate come down, those numbers are much better than they were with that start included.

Obviously, you can not take this start away from Kuhl’s 2020 performance. However, in a normal 162 game season he would have had plenty of time to get his numbers back to normal. But due to the small sample size that was the 2020 season that start made his numbers be out of whack.

Following his 2020 season Kuhl generated offseason trade value. After not receiving any offers that general manager Ben Cherington deemed worthy, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to hold onto Kuhl.

During the 2020 season Kuhl’s curveball spin rate ranked in the 80th percentile of baseball. His fastball velocity was in the 63rd percentile and his whiff rate was in the 51st percentile. All of this is what led to Kuhl being a hot commodity on the trade market.

Kuhl has the pure, natural stuff to be a top two or three starting pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates. So far in Grapefruit League action Kuhl has pitched like this pitcher, and he is raising expectations for his 2021 season.

Tuesday afternoon Kuhl made his third and longest start of the Grapefruit league season. In 3.0 scoreless ininngs of work Kuhl allowed two hits, walked a pair and struck out four. Kuhl has now pitched 6.0 innings in his three starts this spring. He has allowed 3 earned runs (3.00 ERA) on seven hits, a home run, two walks and nine strikeouts.

In Grapefruit League action Kuhl has flashed his power fastball. It was regularly sat in the mid-90s while popping into the upper-90s. Kuhl’s curveball has looked like a plus pitch while his slider has flashed potential as well.

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So far this spring the Pittsburgh Pirates have gotten the best of Kuhl. If this is the version they get of Kuhl in 2021 it will only lead to good things for the Pirates. This would lead to Kuhl building up his trade value, however, it could also lead to him pitching his way into be an extension canidate with the Pirates.

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