Astounded by Craig Kimbrel

I am far too excited to watch Craig Kimbrel pitch next season. He’s a right-hander with high-end velocity – a 95 mph average fastball with rising action that can reach 98 – but nothing we don’t see from relievers with some frequency. He will be 23 years old and has only a meager 21 innings of MLB experience. Despite being moderately interesting on the surface, I didn’t think that I could possibly be more excited to watch him over relievers like Carlos Marmol, Aroldis Chapman, Brian Wilson, Neftali Feliz, Mariano Rivera, and more. But no, as we enter 2011, Craig Kimbrel is my most anticipated reliever of the year.

Since there was no closer controversy in Atlanta – Billy Wagner was excellent all season – one can be excused for forgetting that Kimbrel will be promoted to the closer’s role in Wagner’s absence. Given Kimbrel’s inconsistent appearances at the MLB level – never more than 11 IP in a month – one can also be excused for failing to remember his excellent regular season performance. In his 20.2 innings with the Braves, Kimbrel struck out 40 batters -17 K/9! – en route to a 0.44 ERA and a 1.53 FIP.

It’s less forgivable to overlook Kimbrel’s introduction to America outside of the southeast. Kimbrel put together a fantastic relief appearance on the national stage in Game 2 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. Between the 8th and 9th innings of that game, Kimbrel racked up four strikeouts in preserving a 4-4 tie. His full arsenal of pitches was on display that night, and you can watch it here.

Between the eye-popping strikeout numbers and the impressive, whiff-inducing stuff, and the mystery of his inexperience, Kimbrel has everything a remarkable reliever needs. Throw in Kimbrel’s terrific minor league numbers – at least 12 K/9 every stop in the minors except for a two game stint in A+ – and there’s reason to believe that Kimbrel can post a legendary strikeout season on the level of Carlos Marmol’s 2010 (16.0 K/9). This kid should post incredible numbers and show the spectators some fireworks in the process. It’s only January, and he’s just a young closer on a team that won’t start playing for another four months, but I’m astounded by Craig Kimbrel.



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Brownie19
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Brownie19
5 years 7 months ago

Completely agree….can’t wait to watch this kid through a full season.

Ray
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5 years 7 months ago

I picked him up in an NL-only keeper league last year and am keeping my fingers crossed that he is the Braves closer for 2011.

Wil
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Wil
5 years 7 months ago

He will be the Braves closer next year, bank on it. He only loses it if he struggles mightily in the role.

Sekrah
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Sekrah
5 years 7 months ago

Shhhhhhhh quiet.. I plan on him falling my fantasy draft.

Mike D
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Mike D
5 years 7 months ago

No discussion about how wild he is?

odbsol
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odbsol
5 years 7 months ago

Is it a given that he’ll be closing with Venters on the roster? And is Wagner a for-sure that he’s retiring?

Temo
Member
Temo
5 years 7 months ago

I believe he’s officially retired.

And no, it’s not for sure that Kimbrel will close. He’s made some impressive strides with his control in the past year, but it’s still a concern. And given Venter’s success last year, it’ll probably be a competition between the two of them in spring training.

That said, I hope Kimbrel wins the job, because I think it’d be a mistake to fall in love with Venter’s sparkling ERA last year, as his FIP was merely good for a reliever. Kimbrel almost certainly has a much higher ceiling.

Lucas Apostoleris
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5 years 7 months ago

This guy is ridiculously exciting. Same with Jonny Venters!

Brownie19
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Brownie19
5 years 7 months ago

I guess Venters really is a different pitcher now that he’s a fulltime reliver – but man, that guys minor league numbers leave you questioning whether he can repeat…

Like Kimbrel, Venters also has control issues. I think there will be a competition in camp (hopefully keeping Kimbrel lower in my league members draft board), but I suspect Kimbrel will pull away and run with the closers roll early in the year.

Scott
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Scott
5 years 7 months ago

Venters is very different as a reliever

He only has 2 pitches worth a damn and his sinker gets much better in the pen. When you’re a hitter coming in and facing a pitcher once who throws a 95 mph sinker and sometimes a 4 seamer or breaking ball it’s much harder then facing him 2-3 times when he’s throwing 91-93 on the sinker and has a bit less bite to it

Relievers can also be effectively wild, see guys like lidge and others who’ve had pretty excellent careers even if he’s been wild.

The talk around the organization all hinted to Kimbrel being the closer, cause he’s got much more electric stuff than Venters. But Kimbrel could wet the bed and then it’s Venters or Moylan’s shot.

Yakuzafro
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Yakuzafro
5 years 7 months ago

Kimbrel will be Marmol-like in his eye-popping strikeout numbers and very poor control. Venters has the better control of the two (though he still walked his fair share last year) and gets a ton of ground balls. As such, I’d prefer him to be the 7th/8th inning man, since the idea of Kimbrel coming in with the bases loaded scares me.

Bo
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Bo
5 years 7 months ago

I’m fairly certain Kimbrel will win the “closer’s role”, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Venters get some save opps where the opposing lineup is heavily left-handed in the 9th.

Josh
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Josh
5 years 7 months ago

He is his predecessor Billy Wagner from the right side wild high heat and the nasty filth off-speed. I’m a Braves fan, I think he’ll be the closer and I expect around 30 saves…and I’m m not worried in the least about his control, walk 2 strikeout 3 as long as the save is there at the end. If Wags and Marmol can suceed in this style why can baby-face Craig Kimbrel? Sit back and enjoy boys!

Paul
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Paul
5 years 7 months ago

I love the link to MLB.com video. Wish you guys would do that more often. It’s great, for example, to look at Peter Bourjos’s incredible defensive number, but if you’re not an Angels fan and don’t see him, looking at a couple clips that show his amazing first step quickness and acceleration really helps affirm the numbers.

Same things for the playoff vid. I love how it shows Kimbrel’s attitude as he gives just a short look right at the batter after striking them out, then turns and circles the mound.

As for the poor control, I think his delivery just has so much thrust to it that it will take him some time. He will probably make an adjustment or two when he realizes he doesn’t need so much drive toward the plate for his stuff to play. I don’t know about this season, but I’d expect Bard or Wilson-like command going forward, and his stuff is better than both of them.

DonCoburleone
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DonCoburleone
5 years 7 months ago

I’m excited too but the Braves need to be careful about just handing him the closer job… Does the name Joey Devine ring a bell for any of you?

Teresa Maples Farley
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Teresa Maples Farley
5 years 6 months ago

I used to baby sit this one !!!! GO CRAIG !!! Tell mom and dad to get my number from Janice and Big E…I’d like to watch you pitch some time !!! Teresa from Five Points in Alabama

Donetta Kidwell
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5 years 5 months ago

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