Chad Kuhl is the Pirates Prospects 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year

The last two years, there was no debate about who our Minor League Pitcher of the Year would be. Tyler Glasnow performed so well that it didn’t matter what anyone else did. They couldn’t match his performance. That would have been the case this year had Glasnow stayed healthy all season. However, he went down with an ankle injury, and missed a key amount of time. He was dominant in the innings that he pitched, but there were a lot of other pitchers who performed very well this season in the Pirates’ system.

Glasnow’s innings opening the door for others, and it also opened the door for a very difficult debate as to who was the best pitcher this year. Guys like Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault, and Yeudy Garcia all had fantastic seasons, with different disclaimers attached. How much do you weigh Brault’s time in Bradenton when considering that Kuhl spent all season in Altoona? Garcia put up amazing numbers at a lower level, and did this after making the jump from the DSL, so how did this compare to younger players putting up similar numbers at the top levels? And then there was a debate about Glasnow: Were his numbers good enough to make up for the lack of innings?

In the end, it came down to a debate between Chad Kuhl and Steven Brault, and Kuhl was the winner, making him our 2015 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. Kuhl had a fantastic season, posting a 2.48 ERA in 152.2 innings with Altoona, along with a 6.0 K/9 and a 2.4 BB/9. He’s a heavy ground ball pitcher who got a 57% ground ball rate this year, and showed off a difficult sinker that was working in the mid-90s this season, with his fastball hitting as high as 97 on frequent occasions.

The big debate between Brault and Kuhl was the fact that Brault was promoted to Altoona and posted a 2.00 ERA in 90 innings in the second half, absolutely dominating the level. However, Kuhl was even more dominant during this same time span, with a 1.59 ERA in 84.2 innings after Brault left Bradenton. Brault had more strikeouts, but Kuhl’s game is pitching to contact, and he had a much higher ground ball rate during this span. That left it up to a debate between Kuhl’s first half in Altoona (3.57 ERA in 68 innings) and Brault’s first half in Bradenton (3.02 ERA in 65.2 innings). Kuhl got the edge due to the higher level, the Eastern League being a bit more difficult for pitchers, and the fact that he was strong in the first half and only had three bad starts that sunk his numbers.

Overall, this was probably one of the best years for pitching in the minor league system that I can remember. Even with guys like Jameson Taillon, Nick Kingham, and Clay Holmes missing a lot of time, the Pirates had plenty of strong performers. Guys like Kuhl, Brault, and Garcia all stepped up with breakout performances to put them on the radar as future starters in the majors. In Kuhl’s case, he eventually earned a promotion to Indianapolis for their post-season, and should start at the level in 2016, with a shot at being a depth option for Pittsburgh in the second half of the season.

Below you will find our Minor League Pitchers of the Year for each level in the farm system, our previous overall award winners, and the 2015 monthly awards.

Previous Pirates Prospects Minor League Pitchers of the Year

2014 – Tyler Glasnow

2013 – Tyler Glasnow

2012 – Jeff Locke

2011 – Kyle McPherson

2015 Pirates Prospects Minor League Pitchers of the Year By Level

Indianapolis – Wilfredo Boscan, RHP (3.07 ERA, 126.0 IP, 86:45 K/BB)

Altoona – Chad Kuhl, RHP (2.48 ERA, 152.2 IP, 101:41 K/BB)

Bradenton – Felipe Gonzalez, RHP (3.28 ERA, 107.0 IP, 80:30 K/BB)

West Virginia – Yeudy Garcia, RHP (2.10 ERA, 124.1 IP, 112:41 K/BB)

Morgantown – J.T. Brubaker, RHP (2.82 ERA, 73.1 IP, 49:12 K/BB)

Bristol – Scooter Hightower, RHP (3.31 ERA, 49.0 IP, 55:7 K/BB)

GCL Pirates – Chris Plitt, RHP (2.88 ERA, 40.2 IP, 28:3 K/BB)

2015 Pirates Prospects Pitcher of the Month Awards

April

Overall – Angel Sanchez

Indianapolis – Wilfredo Boscan

Altoona – Angel Sanchez

Bradenton – Frank Duncan

West Virginia – Austin Coley

May

Overall – Yeudy Garcia

Indianapolis – Adrian Sampson

Altoona – Jason Creasy

Bradenton – Clario Perez

West Virginia – Yeudy Garcia

June

Overall – Clayton Richard

Indianapolis – Clayton Richard

Altoona – Matt Benedict

Bradenton – Montana DuRapau

West Virginia – Stephen Tarpley

July

Overall – Chad Kuhl

Indianapolis – Radhames Liz

Altoona – Chad Kuhl

Bradenton – Montana DuRapau

West Virginia – Yeudy Garcia

Morgantown – J.T. Brubaker

Bristol – Christopher De Leon

GCL Pirates – Gerardo Navarro

August

Overall – Steven Brault

Indianapolis – Wilfredo Boscan

Altoona – Steven Brault

Bradenton – Tyler Eppler

West Virginia – Yeudy Garcia

Morgantown – J.T. Brubaker

Bristol – Logan Sendelbach

GCL Pirates – Chris Plitt

  • Tim – Chad Kuhl – is it “Cool”, “Cull”, or something else?

  • Yeah Chad Kuhl. Delaware represent.

  • I like the choice and I believe he does have upside. I wanting to see if he does anything in the AAA finals.

  • This is a guy who has an upside of 3, most likely a 5! Garcia seems to me to be a better prospect unless this is a case of he should win it next year so let’s give it to someone who wouldn’t have this chance again. Who knows maybe Khul will develop a strike out pitch and becomes Kubler.

    • This is just about performance, and not prospect status.

      • Random question – do you like his upside better than Adrian Sampson?

        • I’ve had several scouts raving about him this year. I also have reason to believe that the Pirates are higher on him than they were on Sampson.

          • Considering they essentially gave Sampson away, I think that’s rather obvious. And, correct. Sampson is Casey Sadler, if that.

            • Andrew Rothstein
              September 16, 2015 4:00 pm

              They gave Sampson away? I would say they got a lot of value for him

            • He was dealt for a player who has been one of the majors best starting pitchers post trade deadline.

            • They traded him for a starting pitcher in a market where starting pitchers were getting 4x their trade values, and in a situation where they desperately needed a starting pitcher. So it’s not like they had much negotiating power.

              And I know that you’ve never been high on Sampson, but he’s clearly got value. Seattle wasn’t just giving Happ away for nothing in this market with the Pirates’ situation.

              • They had him for 2 more months on a team that isn’t going anywhere, Tim. Your ‘4 times the market’ narrative doesn’t apply to back-end replacement level SPs on teams not playing in post-season. Also, flip it around: If the Pirates thought Sampson was *anything*, are they trading away 6-7 years of Sampson for back-end option for 10 starts? Not this front office, no way.

                They valued Sampson at a rate equivalent or near a 10-start performance from a guy that was readily available. They thought Happ had potential, sure; but, they’re not giving away a guy in their future plans for 10 starts. They never have.

                • They gave away Dilson Herrera for one month of Byrd. They gave away JaCoby Jones for the same amount of time for Soria, who would have less value than Happ. So why wouldn’t they trade a prospect for ten starts of a guy they like, especially at a time when they desperately need those starts?

  • Is Kyle McPherson retired now?

    • He pitched in the Rays’ system this year. However, he missed all of 2014, made only two appearances in 2013, and missed half of 2012. Injuries have derailed his career since that breakout in 2011.

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