By Jason Shetler
The anticipation among Pirates fans has now been building up with Tyler Glasnow and Jameson Taillon expected to join the rotation as early as next month. While both are pitching really well for AAA Indianapolis, another pitching prospect who has been performing just as good and isn’t getting as much recognition from fans is Chad Kuhl.
Entering 2016, Kuhl was rated the 16th best prospect in the Pirates system according to MLB Pipeline. The 23-year-old right-hander currently has the lowest ERA in the International League at 1.10 while his 0.89 WHIP is tied for third best in the league. His success has been contributed to an outstanding sinker that he can easily throw in the mid-90’s. Kuhl should join the Pirates at some point this season, but the question is in what capacity?
Juan Nicasio is in the rotation right now, but will only be there short term until Glasnow or Taillon arrives first, which will have him moved to the bullpen. Jeff Locke is going to be most likely replaced by the other, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was designated for assignment altogether. Jon Niese has looked mediocre early on this season, but will probably be given every opportunity in order to make the Neil Walker trade pan out, so Kuhl might not see a spot in the rotation, unless Niese completely falls flat on his face. Ryan Vogelsong has looked less than stellar in the bullpen. While he’s posted a 3.24 ERA, his Fielding Independent Pitching is much worse at 5.74. Vogelsong currently has a 37% groundball rate, so Kuhl would definitely be an upgrade in terms of inducing groundballs more consistently. Well let’s be honest, Kuhl would be an upgrade over Vogelsong in general. Having Kuhl in the bullpen would make the most sense since it would allow the Pirates to limit his innings, which they were going to do anyway, and to use him as a spot starter if needed.