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May 2013 Prospect Profile: Tommy Kahnle

05/31/2013 9:47 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Native New Yorker Tommy Kahnle hopes to make the jump from Latham to the Bronx.(Troy Record)
Heading into 2013, the Trenton Thunder got a lot of press for having a three-lefty rotation, a top catching prospect in J.R. Murphy, and a “dream outfield” of prospects Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, and Slade Heathcott.

Add in a few holdovers like third baseman Rob Segedin and a handful of players who gained some good experience in Major League camp this spring, and the 2012 Eastern league finalists seemed primed to make another run at the EL crown on Opening Day.

Like their big brothers in the Bronx, the Thunder have dealt with a lot of adversity since then, as the rotation has already lost one lefty, the outfield struggled early, and Segedin was lost for the season – but also like the Yankees, the Thunder have succeeded, standing at 29-24 through Wednesday, and one of their unsung heroes has been closer Tommy Kahnle.

Through Trenton’s 3-1 win over Erie on May 29, Kahnle was 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA and a team leading seven saves, and had struck out 26 in 23.1 innings over 18 appearances.

The No. 20 prospect in the organization according to MLB.com, the 23-year-old righty was the Yankees’ fifth-round pick in 2010, leaving Lynn University after his sophomore season after being the highest-drafted player in school history. Since then, Kahnle has quickly risen through the system, spending 2010 at Staten island, 2011 at Class-A Charleston, and almost all of 2012 with Class-A Advanced Tampa before moving up to Trenton for the Thunder’s playoff run.

Now, this year, he’s become the nominal leader of a dominant Thunder bullpen, joining Branden Pinder, Danny Burawa, Jeremy Bleich, and Aaron Dott (among others) to back up Trenton’s rotation and help the staff record a 3.89 ERA (good for third in the EL) and a league-leading 18 holds through May 29.

And, he’s gotten stronger as the schedule gets deeper, having allowed just two earned runs in 14.1 innings in May through Wednesday, dropping his ERA by more than a run in the process.

With Preston Claiborne in the Majors, Chase Whitley and Mark Montgomery in Triple-A and players like Taylor Garrison, Nick Goody, and Alex Smith at the lower levels, it might be easy to overlook Kahnle, but he also has one key intangible: a winning track record.

As a freshman at Lynn, the Latham, N.Y. native threw 12.2 scoreless innings in the postseason and recorded the final out in the Knights’ run to the NCAA Division II National Championship, and after returning to a starting role in 2010, he led Lynn in ERA, strikeouts, and opponents' average as a sophomore, throwing just the third no-hitter in school history on March 13, 2010.

With all the flux that occurs in a Major League bullpen every season, it’s not unlikely that Kahnle could at least move up to Triple-A at some point in 2013, and a trip to the ballpark closest to his childhood home in the very near future.

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