Welcome to the 2022 edition of Ranking the Rockies, where we take a look back at every player to log playing time for the Rockies in 2022. The purpose of this list is to provide a snapshot of the player in context. The “Ranking” is an organizing principle that’s drawn from Baseball Reference’s WAR (rWAR). It’s not something the staff debated. We’ll begin with the player with the lowest rWAR and end up with the player with the highest.
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No. 31, Chad Kuhl: -0.1 rWAR
When he signed with Colorado in March of this year, Chad Kuhl’s viability as a major league starter was a bit tenuous. His departure from his previous employer, the Pittsburgh Pirates, was largely due to his belief in his ability to be a valuable rotation arm, while Pittsburgh saw him as a reliever. The Rockies decided to bet on Kuhl as their fifth starter and see what he could contribute to their team, and at first the results were exemplary.
The right-hander was fantastic through his first five starts of the season, collecting a 1.82 ERA during that span. Kuhl utilized his sinker to generate soft contact and paired it with his slider as his strikeout pitch - these two weapons allowed Kuhl to keep opposing lineups down from April into early May.
May saw a step backwards, as a couple rough starts back-to-back saw his ERA balloon to 3.56 at the end of the month. June was better - a 3.38 ERA that month - and included the best single outing of his career. That was a masterful performance, a complete game shutout of the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 27th. The three-hit, five-strikeout outing was the first CG of his career and seemed to put a bow on a great first half. Could this be just the beginning of an under-the-radar great season?
Unfortunately, no. That final start of June preceded a stark and steep decline.
July saw Kuhl throw 20 2⁄3 innings and allow 31 hits in that span for an 8.71 ERA in that month. Comparing April to July is like looking at two completely different pitchers: An ERA of 1.90 compared to 8.71. An opponent batting average of .180 to .348. A WHIP of .85 to 2.18. Yeah, it was tough.
August and September weren’t much better, and the second half of the right-hander’s season ended in disappointing fashion. What had seemed so promising a few months ago ended with Kuhl’s career-highs in ERA, WHIP, H/9, and HR/9.
Kuhl is a free agent at season’s end and is likely to seek employment outside of Colorado. Purple Row staff writers Mac, Mario, and Evan recently discussed the viability of re-signing Kuhl or José Ureña for the 2023 campaign, and it’s something to consider as the Rockies look at their starting pitching depth. With Antonio Senzatela set to start the season on the injured list, only Germán Márquez, Kyle Freeland, and Ryan Feltner seem locked into rotation roles.
That leaves two open spots for starters, and with Triple-A Albuquerque’s pitching depth somewhat in question, Kuhl may make sense to return in a fifth-spot, innings-eater role. Other candidates include Austin Gomber, Noah Davis, Karl Kauffmann, and Ureña (should they choose to re-sign him). The Rockies may also choose to test the free agent market again as names such as Noah Syndergaard, Wade Miley, Sean Manaea, and old friend Tyler Anderson will be available.
Kuhl may have some upside in a rotation-support role, but his future with the Rockies is uncertain at the moment. Keeping the momentum he had built in the first half of the season would have made a strong case for a return, but his notable second-half struggles have left fans skeptical. He could also prove to be a useful bullpen arm, though it’s unlikely the 30-year-old hurler would be too keen on a relief role.
We’ll see what happens this winter, but at time of this writing it seems Kuhl is likely to depart from Denver. While it’s a shame he was unable to keep up the phenomenal work of 2022’s early months, Kuhl was able to complete the majority of a full MLB season as a starter for the first time in his career. If nothing else, that’s pretty... neat.