There are several types of sleepers, the early to mid-round guys who have the upside to be top 25 players, the mid-late round guys (200ish overall) who have a chance to be top 100+/- and the guys who are basically going undrafted in all but 16 team or 30 man roster leagues. AKA guys that make you fall asleep faster than watching afternoon golf of tv. Chad Kuhl is that guy! But maybe he can be more than that.
Because he’s either undrafted or a late-late flier, you don’t need much to get value from him. Quick overview about Mr. Kuhl. His name alone is worth it. You could name your team something like Kuhl’s Out for the Summer or Kuhl Hand Luke. You probably have to be over 45 to get those references. Anyways, back to Kuhl. He’s 25, he’s a sinker / slider guy and mixes a change and curve; he averages nearly 97 MPH on his fastball. This sounds like Charlie Morton, but not young Charlie Morton, he never threw that hard. The old/current Charlie Morton who is good now and World Series Champ. So that’s good but he hasn’t quite gotten the swings and misses you’d expect from a pitcher with that profile. Some scouts say his fastball is too straight and maybe that’s part of the problem. Another take that I saw on Twitter from Eno Sarris is the heatmap below of his sinker:
(courtesy of Eno Sarris on Twitter) Basically, it’s not a bad pitch but his location of the pitch is way too middle-middle. It appears he’s got consistent control with that pitch, he just needs to control it down in the zone. That tells me it can and should be discovered and that he can correct it.
Taking a look at the plate discipline since his call up in 2016, he threw 70 IP in 2016 (+83 in the minors) and 157 IP in 2017 (all in the majors). His K rates improved but his walk rates regressed.
Keep in mind the MLB average contact% is 80%. These are marginal improvements but they seem to justify the improvement in K rate and I think there is room to improve. Not shown here, but his Zone % and F-Strike % both increased in 2017 so I have no idea how his BB rate jumped over 10% when his previous career high at any level was 6.7%! I’m thinking the BB rate will drop back down below 10% and settle around 8.5% this year. If you combine a K% near 22% and a BB% around 8.5% you’re looking at a potential #3 fantasy starter.
Back to the negatives. He’s been bad against lefties but some of that is bad luck with an elevated BABIP but it could also be that lefties can time up his fastball judging by the nearly 40% hard hit rate off of it in 2017. Yikes! All we really need is a slight improvement against lefties to justify a top 60 SP price. I’ll bet on young talent as there have been some positive adjustments already from year one to year two.
2018 Projection: 10 W, 4.06 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 162 Ks in 175 IP. He’s an afterthought going as late as 400 overall or SP 110 around guys like Jose Urena and Brandon Woodruff. He might not be super exciting but the numbers I project would have been the SP 65, 225 overall in 2017. Any 14+ team leagues or expanded roster leagues need to jump all over him.