On Saturday, Craig Kimbrel saved his 300th game against the Texas Rangers. Kimbrel has been an elite closer since 2011,. He started his first full season that year with the Atlanta Braves and proceeded to lead the National League in saves four years in a row. He was traded right at the beginning of the 2015 season to the San Diego Padres. After the 2015 season, he was traded once again, this time to the Boston Red Sox, for multiple players, including top prospect Manuel Margot.
Craig Kimbrel is the 29th pitcher to record 300 saves, reaching the mark in fewer games (494), in fewer save opportunities (330), and at a younger age (29) than any other pitcher. His save percentage of 90.9 is the highest in baseball history (min. 250 save opportunities).
— Red Sox Notes (@SoxNotes) May 6, 2018
Craig Kimbrel Saves #300
Kimbrel was drafted in the 33rd round of the 2007 draft by the Braves out of Wallace State Community College. He wound up not signing that year and returning to school. The following year, the Braves drafted him in the 3rd round, and that’s when they got their man. Upon being called up in 2010, Kimbrel showed some serious stuff. He threw 20.2 innings his first year and had 40 strikeouts. He also only gave up nine hits and one earned run, which resulted in a 0.44 ERA. The problem was his 16 walks in those 20+ innings. He has since learned to control his pitches and has lowered his career BB/9 to 3.30. His other career numbers are staggering: 1.78 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 14.72 K/9.
Kimbrel is a six-foot-tall flamethrower who regularly hits 96-99 mph on the radar gun. He also has recently thrown his curveball for strikes more than he had earlier in his career. This mix of two plus pitches at a difference of over 10 mph allows him to keep hitters from sitting on the fastball.
Kimbrel’s future is uncertain. He will become a free agent after this season. There has been serious money spent these past few years on relief pitching, as the game has evolved into that mindset. Relievers, especially closers, have been commanding $14-$17 million dollars a year. Kimbrel will be 30 years old in May and should become the highest paid relief pitcher in the game. Whichever team gets him will be getting arguably the best closer in baseball.
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