On Tuesday morning, I published part 1 of the "In Search of the Next Craig Kimbrel", but in that piece, I focused on pitching prospects who zero major league experience. Today, I will take a look at some pitching prospects who have some major league experience, including Rex Brothers, Addison Reed, Greg Holland and some others with no major league experience including Juan Abreu and Heath Hembree.
Well, there is one other guy, who isn't a prospect anymore, who is the most likely to be the next Craig Kimbrel, and that is Dodgers catching prospect turned reliever Kenley Jansen. Or maybe Kimbrel is the next Kenley?
Onto the other candidates who could be the next Craig Kimbrel.
Addison Reed, CHW
Reed dominated all 4 levels of the minors last year as he struck out 111 and walked just 14 in his 78.1 innings or work, good for a combined K/9 rate of 12.8 and an absurd K/BB rate of 7.93. He was promoted to the big leagues to finish an unlikely season which saw him start at Low A and work his way to the big leagues. In his 7.1 innings of work out of the White Sox pen, he struck out 12 and walked just one. He appears to have more control than Craig Kimbrel at this point, and may not start the season as the White Sox closer, but he is dominant enough to win the job should Matt Thornton falter again in the closer role this season.
Here is what John had to say about Reed in this excerpt from the Baseball Prospect Book 2012:
Reed rose very quickly last year, but he’ll have a shot to earn the closer job in spring training. Barring injury or sudden command collapse, he’s certainly the favorite for that role by 2013. Grade B+.
John also stated the Reed was the top closer prospect in baseball, and I can't disagree with him.
The rest of the "next Craig Kimbrel" candidates after the jump:
Rex Brothers, COL
Brothers made it to the big leagues, just two years after being drafted in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft. His rise didn't come without some control issues though, as he walked almost 5 batters per nine innings at AAA Colorado Springs, and that was down from his 5.6 BB/9 in 2010. But, he did dominate on the mound as well, as he struck out 14.5 batters per nine, good for a K/BB of 3.00. Brothers was promoted to the big leagues last year, where he threw 40.2 innings, with a 13.06 K/9 and a 4.43 BB/9. Brothers not only strikes out a ton of guys, but he also keeps the ball on the ground, as his 46.2% ground ball rate suggests. Rafael Betancourt was named the Rockies closer this offseason, but I am skeptical that he can retain the job for long. If he struggles, look for Brothers to get the first opportunity to close, as the Rockies traded away Matt Lindstrom this offseason, his only competition.
Greg Holland, KC
Holland was excellent in his first full season in the Royals bullpen in 2011, where he lead the team with 18 holds. He went 5-1 with 4 saves, a 1.80 ERA, a 2.21 FIP and 2.67 xFIP in his 60 innings of work. More impressive was his 11.10 K/9, 2.85 BB/9 and his 3.89 K/BB. But that isn't the whole story. His 16.6% swinging strike rate was the second highest in the AL last year, behind only former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon. His swinging strike rate could regress in 2012, but if the Royals were to entertain trading Joakim Soria this season, and they should, Holland has an excellent chance for seeing some save opportunities in 2012.
Heath Hembree, SFG
Hembree started the 2011 season in High A San Jose where he saved 21 games with an ERA of 0.73 and WHIP of 1.135 on 24.1 innings of work. He completely dominated hitters, striking out a Shawn Tolleson-esque 16.1 batters per nine innings, while walking 4.4 per nine. He moved up to AA Richmond where he saved an additional 17 games, with a 2.83 ERA and 1.151 WHIP. His K/9 dropped to 10.7 against the tougher competition, and his walk rate stayed steady at 4.1 per nine. Hembree will probably move up to AAA in 2012, and could see time in the Giants pen this season if all goes well.
Here is what John said about Hembree in The Baseball Prospect Book 2012:
We should see him within the next year, and if something happens to Brian Wilson, Hembree would be a logical internal replacement. Grade B-.
I can see Sergio Romo getting the first shot at closing should Wilson not be healthy, but Hembree could make some noise in the Giants pen at some point in the next year or two.
Juan Abreu, HOU
Abreu was involved in the trade that sent Michael Bourn to the Braves, and he goes to being blocked by The Craig Kimbrel in Atlanta, to having a chance to close in Houston. Abreu has some similarities to Kimbrel, in that he strikes out a lot of guys, but he issues the free pass a bit too much. His 12.0 K/9 in AAA last season offset the horrible 5.3 BB/9, but the walks did not stop him from getting a cup of coffee last year. In his 6.2 innings of work for Houston, he managed to strike out 12 batters while walking 3, good for a K/9 of 16.2 and a BB/9 of 4.1. According to MLB.com, Abreu sits at 95-97 with his fastball, but can hit 100 on the radar gun.
John gave Abreu a C grade in The Baseball Prospect Book 2012, and here is an excerpt:
He struggled at times in the minors due to spotty command, and while throwing strikes will never be his area of expertise, he’s got the stuff to at least be a solid middle reliever. His command may never be reliable enough for him to be entrusted with a closer role, but if you want a strong K/IP ratio and some decent middle relief innings, Abreu could be a bargain. Grade C.
The Astros have nothing to lose if they give Abreu a shot to close, but I am not sure if he will get the first opportunity with Brandon Lyon, Wilton Lopez and a few others vying for the closers job in the rebuild that is the Houston Astros.