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Kuhl Summer

Could Pittsburgh’s Chad Kuhl Help Your Playoff Push?

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In recent weeks the Pittsburgh Pirates have remade their disappointing rotation: Jon Niese traded to the Mets, Francisco Liriano’s salary dumped on the Blue Jays, and Jeff Locke banished to the bullpen. Of course it is easier to discard pitching than to replace it. GM Neal Huntington did acquire Ivan Nova from the Yankees to fill one of the three vacancies, but, as often is the case with the small-market Pirates, help had to come from within.

Enter Chad Kuhl.

A ninth-round pick in 2013 out of Delaware, Kuhl made his major-league debut on June 26 against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers, an ESPN Sunday night broadcast. In what turned out to be Kershaw’s final appearance before hitting the disabled list, Kuhl outdueled the three-time Cy Young Award winner and earned his first major-league victory.

Since his debut Kuhl has made five additional starts, four of which have been quality starts, including Sunday’s 11-3 victory over the Dodgers (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K). He appears to have stabilized the back end of the Pittsburgh rotation. Now, could he serve as short- or even a long-term option for your fantasy team?

Kuhl’s 2016 stats alone suggest that he could be usable in deeper mixed leagues. At the major-league level he has compiled a 3-0 record with a 3.73 ERA, nine walks, 22 strikeouts, and a 1.24 WHIP in 31.1 innings. At Triple-A Indianapolis his numbers look even better: 6-3, 2.37 ERA, 16 BB, 66 K and 1.16 WHIP in 83.2 IP.

Furthermore, a closer look reveals possible mid-rotation potential. On Sunday in Los Angeles, for instance, Kuhl had excellent movement on his sinker, which is his bread-and-butter pitch, and also on his changeup, which he used to attack and confound the Dodgers’ left-handed hitters. Five strikeouts won’t garner much attention, but the way Kuhl pitched is well worth noting. Staked to a 5-0 first-inning lead, he pounded the strike zone (67 strikes in 102 pitches) and remained aggressive in all counts.

In short, Kuhl seems to have earned the Pirates’ trust and should play an important role in their playoff push. If he pitches the way he did on Sunday, then he could play a role in yours, too.