The Houston Astros made a roster move on Thursday when they picked up Declan Cronin off waivers from the Chicago White Sox. However, because the Astros' 40-man roster was already full, Houston had to make a corresponding move. The Astros chose to part ways with Joel Kuhnel, designating him for assignment.
Kuhnel came up with the Cincinnati Reds organization and eventually made it to the big leagues in 2019. Kuhnel was a hard-thrower who's fastball sat in the mid-to-high 90s. He posted a 4.66 ERA with Cincinnati during a nine-game stretch in his first taste of the majors.
A shoulder injury following the 2020 season, coupled with rehab in 2021, limited Kuhnel's opportunities to make a good impression, and the right-hander was eventually traded the the Astros last June. However, it may time for a reunion between the Reds and Kuhnel.
Former Reds RHP Joel Kuhnel keeps the ball on the ground
Not only is Joel Kuhnel able to zip his heater to the plate at 95-plus miles per hour, but the hulking right-hander also has a great track record of keeping the ball on the ground. Though his major league experience was limited last season to just nine appearances, Kuhnel posted 57.1-percent ground ball-rate.
And in case you think that nine games is much too small of a sample-size, Kuhnel posted a 54.4-percent ground ball-rate in 53 games during the 2022 season. Reds fans know that the balls fly out of Great American Ball Park on those warm summer nights, and having a pitcher who keeps the ball on the ground can be a great asset.
However, so can a pitcher who misses bats. That's something Joel Kuhnel did not do well in 2023. Kuhnel allowed 11.1 hits per nine innings pitched in the major leagues while splitting time between Cincinnati and Houston. Even in the minors, Kuhnel allowed over 11 hits per nine innings pitched.
Without Joey Votto, and likely without Jonathan India, on the right side of the dirt, perhaps a more athletic Reds infield defense could help keep Kuhnel's numbers more respectable. The Cincinnati Reds don't necessarily need to claim Kuhnel off waivers and hand him a 40-man roster spot, but extending a minor-league signing with an invite to spring training couldn't hurt.