The Diamondbacks acquired Tyler Kuhn from the White Sox AAA (the Charlotte Knights) for cash. Kuhn is somewhat of a utility player, playing in both the outfield and the infield for the Knights.
The lefty hitter was acting as Charlotte’s lead-off hitter. This is a little bit strange considering he doesn’t see a lot of pitches according to pitches per plate appearance (3.38 over the last two years compared to the IL average of 3.84). He fits into the contact guy without power profile, with a ground-ball swing that seems to work best when he is hitting the ball the other way. It looks like he has decent speed, which gives him range at all his positions.
The arm certainly looks good enough to play multiple positions as well. With all of this said, I don’t know how much being able to play corner outfield really increases his versatility, as he doesn’t have a power bat.
His 89 wRC+ (around 100 is average) in the International League this year is the same as Josh Wilson (replacement level offensively in the Majors), but I like Kuhn better as a defender. It is 2 points better than Reid Brignac (below replacement offensively in the Majors). He is younger than Wilson and about the same age as Brignac (a few months younger). Other notable players that Kuhn is similar to this year include Kyle Hudson (terrible in a short sample in the Majors), Francisco Cervelli (1.8 O-WAR according to Baseball Reference in 181 games) and Matt Tuiasosopo (below replacement level in the Majors). In 2011, the closest comparison to Kuhn’s 2012 season was two Yankees, Kevin Russo (below replacement in just 31 MLB games) and Brandon Laird (replacement level in just 11 career MLB games). In 2010, the closest in wRC+ were Robert Andino (1 O-WAR in 400 games) and the ghost of Eric Bruntlett. Will Rhymes (1.2 O-WAR in 130 games) and Norris Hopper (.8 O-WAR in 168 MLB games) were the closest to 89 wRC+ in 2009.
So we have a decent picture of Kuhn’s offensive profile. The floor is a hitter that gets laughed out of the league, while the ceiling is adequate but below average hitter. That is a pretty big range, but judging from what I have seen of him, this is a reasonable starting point. His plate discipline combined with his contact skills should allow him to not be absolutely embarrassed in the big leagues.
Most of his value will be tied up in whether or not he can play shortstop. Kuhn hasn’t played any shortstop this season, but played 26 games at short in AA last season. If he can play the middle infield positions and play them well, what he hits won’t matter for the most part. He could settle in as a good utility man. This is a big if of course, but it seems to me that he has the athleticism and arm to fill in for any position.