As the Rant Sports writers and I had our first relief pitcher in Koji Uehara listed at number 37, we were due for another. As such, I introduce to you the 29th member of the MLB Top 50 Players list, Craig Kimbrel.
After a 2012 season of epic proportions in which he finished the year with a 1.01 ERA, a 0.654 WHIP, 116 strikeouts, a ratio of 8.29 strikeouts to each walk, and 42 saves in 63 games pitched, it would be easy to assume Kimbrel would not be able to have nearly as good a year in 2013. But, you know what they say when you assume: sometimes you are wrong.
Kimbrel came back in 2013 and led the Atlanta Braves to the NLDS with a 1.21 ERA, a sub-1.00 WHIP, 98 strikeouts and 50 saves. Indeed, his 2013 performance was slightly less impressive than the previous year, but Kimbrel’s stats would be gladly welcomed into the bullpen of any MLB team.
The scariest part about his last few fantastic seasons is that Kimbrel is doing all of this at the ripe old age of 25! With only three full seasons under his belt, Kimbrel boasts a nearly immaculate career ERA of 1.39. If he can keep up this level of production, he certainly has a chance to go down in the history books, grouped with the likes of Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera. Clearly, Kimbrel needs a few more solid seasons in the books in order to really be mentioned with the greatest, but he is headed in the right direction.
The Braves will still have a solid team in 2014 using Kimbrel, star outfielder Jason Heyward, breakout stud Freddie Freeman and one of the most complete starting rotations in all of baseball as the cornerstone of their franchise. Look for the Braves to be impressive again and watch out for Kimbrel’s upper 90s fastball to close down games all season long.