Throws hard, bad control. Kimbrel, a short righthander from Huntsville, was drafted from a junior college in the third round in 2008, and has rocketed up the system basically because nobody can hit him: he’s allowed only 53 hits, only two of them homers, in 110 1/3 career minor league innings, while striking out 180. Simply put, he’s too good for the minor leagues.
But there’s a problem. Kimbrel has walked 65 men in those 110 1/3 innings pitched, and at times completely loses the strike zone, highlighted by his 28 walks in 26 1/3 innings at Myrtle Beach last season. Pitching at four levels last year, he also threw ten wild pitches. It’s very hard to use a short reliever with control difficulties like this in any role but closer, because you don’t want to bring him in with runners on base. His control has been better so far this year, but it’s very early and the sample size is small.
If Kimbrel can harness his control, and if he can stay healthy, he could be awesome, and I have little doubt that he will have a significant major league career. The question is if that’s going to be in Atlanta or two or three stops down the road. I hope he makes it, not only for the Braves’ sake but to fill the vacant closer spot on the all-time all-Alabama team.