2010 Player Preview: Craig Kimbrel
16 (boooo!). It is IMPOSSIBLE to succeed when you're walking that many men, regardless of how many are striking out.
I'll expect Kimbrel to start the year in Gwinnett, and if he struggles like he did at the beginning of last season, to get jerked down to Mississippi to get his head together. There's an off chance he could make his way up to Atlanta after the All-Star break if injuries come into play. A more realistic ETA is 2011...assuming, as I've been saying during this entire article, he gets the walks under control.
Final projection: closer at Gwinnett for most of the year, possible late season cameo in Atlanta. Full-time Brave in 2011. ASSUMING HE STOPS WALKING THE WORLD.
Time to discuss one of the most controversial Braves prospects, Craig Kimbrel.
Kimbrel was drafted in 2008 by the Braves, and zipped through the system, finishing the year in Myrtle Beach after starting in Danville. People were fast tracking Kimbrel from the getgo, and he started 2009 in Myrtle Beach, where he struggled horribly. He was demoted to Rome, where he dominated, and came back to the Beach, and pitched much better. That led to promotions to both Mississippi and Gwinnett, where he pitched very well. Kimbrel is a really complex player, so we need to take a deeper look at things.
At first glance, you love Kimbrel: in 95 1/3 career professional innings, he's struck out 158, which results in a ZUH!!??!?! worthy K rate of 14.92 per 9. He's also allowed only 46 hits and 2 homers, giving him a career BAA of .139 (assuming my math skills are correct) and a homer rate of .18 per 9. Yeah, those numbers are pretty good too. But, theres one important rate stat to look at: walks. In those 95 1/3 innings, he's walked 60 batters. Yeah, thats insanely bad. Its really hard to succeed at the major league level with a walk rate of 5.66.
I'm not saying Kimbrel is doomed to be a career minor leaguer or that he's never going to amount to anything. In fact, I believe he can be a dynamite closer for the Braves. But he really needs to take care of the walk issue. Its the elephant in the room for his career thusfar. Lots of strikeouts...lots of walks. Kimbrel's stint in the Arizona Fall League seemed to be a microcosm of his career: in 10 1/3 innings, he struck out 18 (yay!) and walked