In the 2017 season Joel Kuhnel jumped from 11th round pick to pitching prospect to keep an eye on early in the year when he began showing upper 90’s velocity with the Dayton Dragons out of the bullpen. He had a solid season with Dayton, earning him a promotion to the next level to begin the 2018 season.
The first two weeks of the season saw Joel Kuhnel dominate over the span of four appearances. He threw 7.0 innings without allowing a run or a walk, and he struck out 10 batters. On the 21st he allowed his first run of the year in 2.0 innings of wok against Dunedin. His next two outings saw him throw 2.1 combined shutout innings with four more strikeouts. But his last game of April didn’t go his way, as he allowed three earned in an inning of work against Fort Myers. Overall on the month the right-hander posted a 2.92 ERA in 12.1 innings with no walks and 16 strikeouts.
May began in about as bad of a way as possible for Joel Kuhnel. The 23-year-old allowed four hits and a walk, to go along with three runs in 0.1 innings of work against Jupiter. It would be the only game of the month in which he would allow a run. Over his next seven appearances he threw 8.1 shutout innings with two walks and 11 strikeouts. That first outing led to a 3.12 ERA on the month where he had three walks and 11 strikeouts.
After picking up the save on June 1st, Joel Kuhnel only recorded one out on the 3rd against Lakeland. A few days later he rebounded with a shutout inning against Clearwater. Palm Beach touched him up for a run on the 10th. That was the last game of the month that he would allow a run in. Over the final two weeks of the month he threw 6.1 hitless innings with two walks and six strikeouts. For June he posted a 1.86 ERA in 9.2 innings with just two walks and seven strikeouts.
The first week of July saw Joel Kuhnel take the mound twice, and both outings were of the shutout variety. The next four outings were a mixed bag, with the bookends leading to four earned runs, with the two in the middle being shutout appearances. In his final week of the month the righty allowed a run in 3.1 innings. In what was his worst month by ERA, he posted a 4.22 mark in 10.2 innings with four walks and 12 strikeouts.
The first three-and-a-half weeks of August were going quite well for Joel Kuhnel, he allowed no earned runs in 8.2 innings with no walks and with eight strikeouts. It was that final week of the season that would come back to get him as he allowed four earned, was charged with three more unearned runs, allowed eight hits, hit a batter, and walked two in 3.1 innings to finish out the season. In his final ten games he posted a 3.00 ERA with two walks and 10 strikeouts in 12.0 innings.
For all 2018 Season Reviews and Scouting Reports – click here (these will come out during the week throughout the offseason).
Joel Kuhnel Scouting Report
Fastball | He’s got a plus fastball with velocity that sits in the mid-to-upper 90’s and touches triple digits.
Slider | At times it’s an above-average offering, though it is still average at times, too.
Joel Kuhnel has pretty good stuff, with a fastball that will hit triple digits. He took some steps forward in 2018. His walk rate remained extremely low, but his strikeout rate went from below-average to above-average. And that happened while keeping a high groundball rate, too.
The combination of pounding the strikezone, strikeouts, and groundballs usually works out quite well for pitchers. While he has yet to pitch in Double-A, if he can continue with the rates that he showed last season he could move rather quickly in 2019 with a possible late season call up not out of the question.
Interesting Stat on Joel Kuhnel
During the 2018 season he threw strikes on 70.8% of the pitches that he threw. That would have led the Major Leagues among the pitchers qualified for the ERA title. He had a swinging strike on 13.5% of the pitches that he threw. Of the 338 pitchers in the Major Leagues with at least 50 innings, a 13.5% rate would have ranked 59th – well above-average.