- Full name Craig Michael Kimbrel
- Born 05/28/1988 in Huntsville, AL
- Profile Ht.: 6'0" / Wt.: 215 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Wallace State CC
- Debut 05/07/2010
Drafted in the 3rd round (96th overall) by the Atlanta Braves in 2008 (signed for $391,000).
View Draft ReportCraig Kimbrel leads the list of junior college players in the state. At 6 feet, Kimbrel is an undersized righty with a lightning-quick arm, producing velocity in the mid- to upper 90s. Kimbrel has worked as a starter and closer and profiles to pitch out of the bullpen at the pro level. His slider is still developing as is his command. Kimbrel has overmatched juco hitters this spring, and with each strong performance it became less likely he'd be following though on his commitment to Alabama.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Braves selected 10 junior college players in the first 15 rounds of the 2008 draft, starting with Kimbrel in the third round. He signed for $391,000 after turning down $125,000 from Atlanta as a 33rd-round pick a year earlier. He ranked third in the International League with 23 saves and reached the big leagues in his second full pro season. He was dynamic during the pennant race, finishing the year with 12 scoreless big league outings while striking out 23 in 12 innings. Kimbrel has averaged 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro, thanks to his heavy fastball, which sits at 93-96 mph with excellent sink. His slurvy curveball gives him a second plus pitch to complement his heater. After rarely throwing a changeup in 2009, he worked on the pitch prior to last season and mixed it in on occasion. While moving faster than anticipated, Kimbrel has made significant strides with his command and his ability to pitch inside. Reminiscent of a righthanded Billy Wagner, he has the stuff and makeup to finish games. The Braves tried to expose Kimbrel to the job of a major league closer and Wagner's expertise without rushing him in 2010. He responded well, putting himself in position to take over as Atlanta's closer in 2011 following Wagner's retirement.
Kimbrel turned down $125,000 as a Braves 33rd-round pick in 2007 before signing for $391,000 as a third-rounder a year later. He overcame a slow start at high Class A Myrtle Beach--he had 18 walks and a 10.97 ERA in 11 innings--to save 18 games and rank second among minor league relievers with 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings. Kimbrel has the stuff and mentality to be a big league closer. He aggressively challenges hitters with his plus-plus fastball, which sits at 93-95 mph, touches 98 and has nasty life. He also throws an above-average breaking ball that he calls a curveball but looks more like a slider. He flashes a deceptive changeup, though he rarely used it in 2009. Kimbrel needs to pitch inside more often with his fastball. Though he showed marked improvement after April, he needs better command of his stuff. He spent most of his time in the AFL trying to hone his changeup. Kimbrel has moved quicker than expected and is Atlanta's closer of the future. More time in Triple-A wold benefit him, but he could make his major league debut in the second half of 2010.
The Braves drafted Kimbrel in the 33rd round in 2007, but he turned down a $125,000 bonus to return to Wallace State (Ala.) CC. He averaged 13.7 strikeouts per nine innings and limited batters to a .140 average as a sophomore, and the Braves signed him for $391,000 as a third-round pick. He was just as dominant in pro ball, concluding his debut with four scoreless innings in high Class A. Though he's somewhat undersized, Kimbrel has a strong frame and a lightning-quick arm. Throwing from a low threequarters delivery, he has a fastball that resides at 92-95 mph and touches 98 with heavy sink. His heater tends to run in on righthanded hitters before exploding to the plate. He has a closer's mentality. Kimbrel needs more consistency with his control and two secondary pitches, both of which project to become average. His slider still gets slurvy and his changeup isn't reliable. Kimbrel made the best initial impression among members of Atlanta's 2008 draft class. He has the ingredients to become a major league closer. He'll stay on the fast track and could reach Double-A in his first full pro season.
Minor League Top Prospects
The odds-on favorite to be the first 2008 Appy Leaguer to the reach big leagues, Kimbrel made just 12 relief appearances for Danville, barely qualifying for this list after signing as a third-rounder in June. He advanced to low Class A before settling at high Class A for the Carolina League playoffs. He draws comparisons with Braves 2005 first-rounder Joey Devine for a similar delivery and repertoire, but Kimbrel's stuff and flexibility are a tick better. He may be undersized at 5-foot-11, but he has a quick arm and a knockout two-pitch mix. Kimbrel pitches in the mid- to high-90s--he hit 97 mph with Danville--from a low three-quarters arm slot, mixing in a slider that grades as a plus pitch at times. His low release point makes him a natural groundball pitcher, and he generated 2.13 groundouts for every flyout in his debut.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Reliever in the National League in 2014
- Rated Best Slider in the National League in 2014
- Rated Best Reliever in the National League in 2013
- Rated Best Slider in the National League in 2013
- Rated Best Reliever in the National League in 2012
- Rated Best Slider in the National League in 2012
- Rated Best Fastball in the Atlanta Braves in 2010
- Rated Best Fastball in the Carolina League in 2009
- Rated Best Fastball in the Atlanta Braves in 2009