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.

34 Responses

  1. The Duke

    I saw Kuhnel in Dayton in 2017, his stuff is legit and he throws strikes. We’ll see how he does in Chattanooga, but he’s got some promise.

  2. MK

    Joel might benefit from being a little more strategically wild. When good hitters can expect strikes they can time a jet plane.He needs to use his intimidating size and speed, like Rob Dibble, and put the fear of God in the hitters.

    • CP

      With good strike zone control I would think would come with the ability to intentionally stretch that same strike zone once he is ahead. It will be interesting to see how he does this year against higher level hitters in AA and hopefully AAA. His stuff will play from the sounds of things, but what about between the ears? Really hope this guy keeps it going so he can be a new piece for the pen as Hernandez’s contract expires after this year.

    • The Duke

      Definitely something to be said for being intentionally wild every now and then. That can also throw guys off sometimes too, so you have to have a lot of faith in your control to do it.

    • Oldtimer

      Ryne Duren. Reds RP in early 1960s. Wild more often than not. Successful RP in MLB as a result.

      • James K

        Rumors abounded about Duren’s mental health, and they added to his intimidation.

      • MK

        Duren was an alcoholic and hitters never knew if he was drunk. He also wore the thick glasses. Would throw a warm-up pitch up on the backstop then take off his glasses and clean them.

      • Dollar Bill

        I heard he once hit a batter in the on deck circle.

      • terry m

        Duren received the Yankee Family Award for conquering alcoholism and service as an alcohol abuse educator. This was in 1983. So it looked like he took care of one of his demons !!

  3. CP

    Do most think he starts the year in AA or does he still have some left to prove in High A? I like the idea of a guy like him having a shot of getting a look come late summer or September. Especially when considering the other internal additions to the bullpen that could continue to make what was a strength last year even stronger.

    Iglesias, Hughes, Lorenzen, Hernandez, Amir are near locks I would say with so many quality arms in the mix to finishing rounding it out. Sims, Mella, Reyes, Wisler, Stephens, Peralta, Bowman, Herget. Herget perhaps most importantly finally getting his shot this year to just keep producing at the MLB just like he has at every other level he has pitched at. One of the best ways for the Reds to protect against an only average rotation is to have an above average bullpen. I would love to see the Reds add again in this area. Go after another 1-2 guys like we did last year when we got Hughes and Hernandez fellas!

    • CP

      Forgot to mention all the SP’s that might get bumped to the bullpen due to the additions of Wood & Roark.

      Right now these guys will be competing for that 5th spot. Mahle, Reed, Stephenson, Finny. Stephenson is out of options so he has to go to the bullpen if he doesn’t win the rotation spot. Finny has so much to prove after his terrible season last year, but could find his best shot at back in the bigs sliding back to the bullpen. Reed is a lefty so I could see the temptation for them to put him there again, but he would be one I would prefer to see them keep working him out as a SP. I’m guessing Mahle gets the spot and Reed starts the year in AAA as the 6 SP ready to go if an injury/poor performance happens. It takes much more than just 5 SP’s to get through a season. He will get his shot. That also gives Santillan some time to work in AAA and get ready as well. You don’t have to squint too hard to see how the table is set for this team to compete and endure the grind of the 162 much more than in recent years.

      • The Duke

        I think Finnegan gets every chance to win a job in the bullpen. Lefty with positive time as a big leaguer. Biggest thing for him is health.

        Personally, I think Romano works best as a RP. He can air it out and throw upper 90’s over 1 inning stretches, but still be capable of giving them 2-4 IP if they really needed it.

        If Mahle and Reed aren’t in the rotation, then they should be in AAA. Use those options while we have them and keep them on starter schedules/training.

        It’s put up or shut up time for Bob Steve. If he isn’t showing control, I could see him getting waived at the end of spring training, and maybe even clearing waivers.

        Herget will need to wow in spring training to make the roster to start the year since he has options left. Not ruling that possibility out though.

      • Cguy

        I’d like to see the Reds sign a quality lefty reliever/swingman for 2019. All the Reds young lhp(s) (Garrett, Peralta, Reed, & Finnegan) have an option for 2019, so none of them would have to waived to be demoted to Louisville. Problem is, quality LHP is at a premium.

      • James K

        I would say competing for fourth and fifth spots. Why does everyone seem to concede a starting spot to DeSclafani? He pitched well in 2016, but not at all in 2017, part season and not very well in 2018.

      • MK

        My thought for bullpen is three lefties, five righties. Garrett, Peralta, Finnegan, and Hernandez, Hughes, Iglesias, Romano, Herget. I think Wisler, Bowman and Reed could take a spot with outstanding Springs and stumbles by some of the others. Starters would be Castillo, Roark, Wood, Mahle, Stephenson.

      • DanD

        MK,

        Where do you have Lorenzen pitching at? Starting or did you just forget to include him?

      • Oldtimer

        MK – you forgot RP Lorenzen.

        God forbid Stephenson as SP.

      • MK

        Forgot him, but if he doesn’t decide to be a pitcher rather than a body builder he will be injured anyway.

    • Doug Gray

      I’d be very, very surprised if he doesn’t start in Chattanooga.

    • Wes

      I’m over the crop of guys who never cut it. U had ur chance to earn a spot on one of worse staffs in majors. Time to move on from guys like Cody reed, Stephens, Romero, bobsteve, if finnegan don’t show up healthy cut him too. Maybe even old man Herget.

      U can replace those guys with in house guys or other free agents. Reds have the money to spend. Sign guys who want to compete for major league spot and are willing to come to cincy. More overhaul is needed to compete next season.

      • Big Ed

        Yeah, good idea to move on from Reed, Stephenson and Finnegan as they head into their age 26 seasons, and Stephens and Romano as they enter into their age 25 seasons.

        Especially when you consider that both Jacob DeGrom and Corey Kluber had a total of 0 wins through their age 25 seasons. No way anybody would believe that Reed’s striking out 35 in 38 post-ASB innings, with a 3.79 ERA while giving up only 3 HRs, was anything but a fluke.

        Plus, Derek Johnson clearly won’t be able to help any of them.

      • Wes

        Thanks Ed ! Knew you would like that idea.

        Romano’s first inning era is through the roof. How does that translate to bullpen success?

        Cody Reed has been a complete bust since he was acquired and at times can barely make the AAA roataion when the major league rotation is worst in bigs.

        Comparing those dudes to Kluber/Degrom is a cruel jape. You can take 30 innings of any pitcher and make them look good but when u look at several seasons of a full body work- they are all busts.

        So keep the course w a bunch of dudes who can’t crack the worst rotation in baseball or move on with fresh faces?? Glad we r on the same page.

      • Doug Gray

        You serious, Clark?

        The only guy on your list that can’t be optioned in Robert Stephenson. Outright cutting the others would be absolutely foolish.

      • Bill

        Reed’s AAA and major league #s are nearly identical for 2018. In short, he was solid, though not spectacular last year. Where he shined was in the bullpen although the sample size is admittedly small. He’ll either start in the big league bullpen or in the AAA rotation. He really seemed to make the adjustment to his new mechanics. With an option left to burn, I’m definitely not ready to give up on Reed.

        Stephenson had arguably his best year in the minors last year, but he failed to carry it forward with the Reds. Walks killed him with the Reds and still plagued him in spurts at AAA. I hope the Reds have told him to expect to pitch from the bullpen in 2019 and give him consistent innings. He has never been given consistent bullpen work before. It’s too early to give up on Stephenson, but time is running short for him.

        Romano looked much better out of the pen than starting. I’d strongly consider starting him in the pen at AAA and see if he can sustain his success over a longer timeframe. Like Reed, he has an option remaining, so there’s definitely time for continued development.

        Jackson Stephens spot is tenuous at best. His results in both Cincy and Louisville were unacceptable last year. I would use him exclusively in relief at AAA rather that as a swingman, but I honestly would not be surprised to see him DFA if the Reds sign a free agent.

        With Finnegan its all about heath and conditioning. If healthy and in playing shape, he should make the team in the bullpen.

        I think any of these pitchers are extreme long shots for making a big league rotation out of spring training. With solid success in 2019, I could see giving them starts late in the year if there is a need and obvious progress. It’s reasonable to expect tow or even three dependable, multi-inning relievers from this group and there’s tremendous value in that outcome.

      • Bill

        One last point, I’m not saying any of these guys will turn into Kluber or Degrom, but take a look at their draft position and minor league results–both were late bloomers. Stephenson, Reed, and Finnegan were higher draft picks and all 5 of our pitchers have produced better AAA/AA results compared to Kluber or Degrom.

      • MK

        Jack Billingham had a losing record had a losing record and 4.2+ ERA while spending time in the minors for a 5th place Astros team at age 26. Tanner Roark was a rookie at 26. I don’t think I would give up on 25 year olds.

      • Wes

        Yes I’m serious. Clear em to make room on the 40 and replace them w guys who are ready to compete- you can keep those guys if they make it through waivers but reds can have better players on the 40 man. Free agents will sign if they can compete for a spot.

        Let’s say reds miss out on kuechel and Gio Gonzalez. All four of these guys will have better seasons next year than Romano Reed bobsteve and Stephens.

        Holland
        Hellickson
        E Santana (ace potential)
        E Jackson

        Sign em to minor league deals w big league invite w yuge incentive if they make team and perform. All four of them will out produce 4 current reds no doubt and improve the weakest part of team.

        Then sign pollock and compete for central next season.

        Got 40 rosters spots. Use em vs wasting them on a bunch of guys bill calls long shots.

        Again, please do not contact me reds ownership. I enjoy my current job. Thanks!

      • RedsinWashst

        Old Wes is ready to clean house again. I remember last year when you wanted to depart with Greene. The Reds minor leagues is by far their weakest position which it didn’t help by getting rid of Josiah Grey. Bob/Steve had a good year in 3a by going to his slider more and then working his fastball off of it. When he got to Cincinnati old Rigatone wanted him to do the opposite and may have gotten in his head. He needs to be given 1 more year with new coaching unless you are Wes and we’ll just trash them all.

      • Wes

        Not this wes. I wouldn’t trade Greene for degrom. Greene was as highly regarded as anyone since Strasburg/Harper. I would have drafted McKay which still would have been the better choice considering where his development is and reds are but once u take Greene- you’re in for the long haul.

      • Bill

        To clarify, I said long shots to break spring training in the rotation. I recommended retaining 4 of the 5 pitchers that I discussed.

    • Norwood Nate

      Iglesias, Hughes, Hernandez, Garrett, Lorenzen, Romano, Reed, and Stephenson (due to options) would by my preference for OD bullpen. Peralta needs to show some semblance of control and Finnegan needs to show he can get AAA guys out regularly before I’d bring either up to ML.

  4. redleggingfordayz

    I like the way his delivery works as he keeps a ton of momentum moving forward on his finish. Kuhnel could be helping the major league bullpen sooner than later. Him and Herget are going to be some good reinforcements to have, especially if the Reds start competing.

  5. The Duke

    By the end of baseball season i’m ready for a break, but now that we’re past the new year i’m getting that itch again. Looking up when pitchers and catchers report (2/12 or 2/13) and when the college season starts (2/15). I’m ready again for some baseball!

  6. Scott C

    I know a lot would like to Reed in the Pen and Mahle starting, and I certainly would not be against that but the flashes I saw post ASB from Reed, I would really like to see him in the starting rotation. One that would give us two lefty in the rotation and although I get the idea of having situational lefties in the pen, I believe that Reed is more than a situational lefty. I’d much rather see Finnegan in the pen, although I understand that now we are getting too crowded with what we have. But the second reason is that left handed hitting crushed us last year (I don’t have the figures but just from what I remember). Starters are going to face more left handers than a LOOGY.