Since arriving in the major leagues in late 2010, 5’11” right-hander Craig Kimbrel has been the best closer in baseball, unequivocally.
Over the last seasons, the 25-year-old has appeared in 163 games for the Braves and registered a 1.46 ERA with 89 saves. Kimbrel led all National League closers with 46 saves in 2011 and 42 in 2012, and was selected to the All-Star team in each year.
Using a fastball that sits in the high-90s and occasionally reaches triple-digits, as well as one of the filthiest sliders in the game, Kimbrel has been a one-man wrecking crew in the ninth inning. Exactly how effective has he been? Well, in 160.1 innings in the major leagues, the right-hander has amassed 283 strikeouts (15.9 K/9) compared to only 62 walks (3.5 BB/9). Last season, he fanned more than half the batters he faced. Equally important is the fact that Kimbrel has allowed only 84 hits (six of them home runs) over that span and demonstrated a knack for stranding baserunners.
But is there a future Craig Kimbrel lurking in the minor leagues? Possibly. There are definitely some big-time, power arms with closer potential, though it will require more than just a plus fastball to rival Kimbrel’s overwhelming success.
Here’s a look at five pitchers who could be the next Craig Kimbrel.
*All stats courtesy of BaseballReference.com
*Some players' notes are derived from their original scouting report, which appeared as part of their organization's top-10 prospects ranking.