If you had the opportunity to watch North Side Bound’s #14 prospect, Caleb Kilian (safe to say he’s moving up the next time those rankings are updated), then you were in for a treat. If you didn’t have a chance to see Kilian in action, then check out Greg Huss’s quick hits piece. Check out some of the video below, then watch it a few more times.
KIlian pitched six perfect innings against some of minor league baseball’s top talent. His 6 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 8 K, 0 BB performance really doesn’t truly capture the level of performance. So let’s dive a bit deeper.
Here’s a breakdown on the number of pitches that Kilian threw and approximate velocity range for each pitch
|Pitch||# Thrown (Whiffs)||Velocity range (MPH)|
|4-seam fastball||15 (2)||94-98|
KIlian leaned heavily on his 4-seam fastball and sinker in the first two innings. In innings 3 and beyond, the righthander continued to use his 92-97 mph sinker while incorporating a curveball and cutter. He dominated the rest of the outing on those three pitches.
This piece isn’t meant to dunk on any prospect evaluators, but watching Caleb Kilian in his starts before the trade deadline made me question the comments that he was projected as a “bottom of the rotation pitcher” in the major leagues. When I charted his starts, he generated whiffs off his cutter and well-placed fastball. Since then Kilian has changed his curveball to a spike curveball and his changeup (his weakest pitch earlier this year) to a circle changeup grip. He only threw a handful of changeups in this start, but the curveball absolutely played. It’s a fantastic pitch for Kilian and helped him generate 4 of his 14 whiffs (swings and misses). The average whiff% in MLB is approximately 23% and Kilian’s 14 whiffs led to a 20.8% for this start. For a pitcher who prognosticators felt didn’t have swing and miss “stuff”, you’ll absolutely take a league average whiff rate, especially when Kilian’s plus (or even plus-plus if you’re bold) command is factored in.
CSW: Called Strike + Whiff Rate
Swing and miss stuff is very important in today’s baseball, but it’s critical not to discount Kilian’s excellent command. At upper levels of the minors and in the major leagues, a called strike is just as good as a swing and a miss. Thankfully there’s a stat that includes both. CSW% (Called Strike + Whiff rate) is a fantastic stat that has a good correlation with K% and SIERA (a more pitcher dependent ERA) . For more information on CSW, check out Alex Fast’s important breakdown.
As you can imagine from that lead in, Kilian had an excellent CSW% of 33.8% from this start. According to Fantrax HQ, a 30-35 CSW% is considered “very good”. It’s not a good idea to extrapolate one start to a whole season, but a 33.8% CSW% is in the same league as Julio Urías and above Zach Wheeler. Again, this just speaks to the fact that Kilian has a much higher ceiling than a back of the rotation arm. He’s proving that against upper level minor league talent.
This will be the last time Cubs fans are able to see Caleb Kilian pitch till spring training. After dominating Hi-A, AA, and now the Arizona Fall League, Kilian beginning next season in AAA Iowa should not surprise. While there is an outside chance he could start in Chicago, I’d expect Kilian to make his Wrigley debut later in the summer. Cubs fans watching this outing have to be hoping that this isn’t the last time they see Kilian dominating at the national stage in a Cubs uniform, and, truthfully, after digging into Caleb Kilian, I don’t think it will be.
Featured image of Caleb Kilian by Rich Biesterfeld (@Biest22)