The Bowling Green Hot Rods dropped their first game of the infant season last night by being blanked by the South Bend Silver Hawks 2-0. And while Chris Kirsch was the first Hot Rod to record a loss in 2014, it’s a darn shame, because he pitched a beauty. Kirsch went 5.0 innings, allowing just one run on one hit and one walk while striking out six.
Kirsch, who spent time with Hudson Valley and Port Charlotte last season, was drafted in 2010 (Pittsburgh, 13th round), 2011 (St. Louis, 21st round) and finally in 2012, when the Rays picked him up in the 14th round and finally got him signed after he declined to do so in his first two go-arounds. Kirsch finished 2013 with a 6-3 record and a 3.01 ERA in 92.2 innings pitched, and threw 5.0 wonderful innings last night.
There isn’t a huge book on Kirsch in the scouting world as he did not crack the Rays’ top 30 prospects or any other major prospect list. 2014, though, might just be the year to change all that. Kirsch has a four pitch arsenal, which includes a low-90’s fastball and a 1-t0-7 curveball to accompany a slider and changeup. His fastball features excellent sink, helping him to a 54.3% groundball rate in 2013. Since he entered the draft three times before finally sticking around, some questioned his desire to pursue baseball professionally, but no one has questioned his talent.
The Rays thought enough of Kirsch to send him to the Stone Crabs (who are a step higher than the Hot Rods), when they needed an injury replacement. He even held his own, managed a 3.60 ERA in 10 innings pitched, all in relief. He then pitched exclusively as a starter once moving down to Hudson Valley, managing a 2.94 ERA in his 16 starts. Now he is back in bowling Green to continue his development as a starter. He hopes to keep honing his secondary pitches and garner better all-around command of all his offerings to make a future as a starting pitcher in the major leagues a possibility.
It’s a shame that the only run Chris Kirsch gave up last night was on a groundball out, and it’s an even bigger shame that the Hot Rods offense, who came out swinging successfully in the first two games, couldn’t get enough offensive support to make that one run meaningless. In any event, Kirsch is a name to watch, and just like Granden Goetzman who we talked about yesterday, the potential that Kirsch has is through the roof. As long as Kirsch’s motivation is no longer an issue, he has the ability to emerge as an interesting pitching prospect for the Rays in the next few years.