May 2013 Prospect Profile: Tommy Kahnle
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 33-30 through June 10, and one of their unsung heroes has been closer Tommy Kahnle.
Through 63 games, Kahnle was 1-2 with a 1.98 ERA and a team leading eight saves, and had struck out 30 in 27.1 innings over 21 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 very good Thunder bullpen, joining several others in backing up Trenton’s rotation and helping the staff record a 4.02 ERA. The 'pen also has 18 saves and 20 holds through June 10, both of those marks tying the Thunder for third in the Eastern League.
And, Kahnle in particular has gotten stronger as the schedule gets deeper, as he recorded a 1.17 ERA and five saves in 11 appearances in May and held the EL to a .157 average.
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.