Introducing you to another Atlanta Braves centerpiece of the future

We’ve given a lot of mention to the Atlanta Braves stockpiling young talent. They’re good this year, and they’re going to be very good very soon for a very long time. Today we give mention to another young Braves prospect, Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel is 22 years old, and is probably the future of the Braves closer role.

From The Golden Sombrero:

Kimbrel was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 33
rd round of the 2007 MLB Amateur Draft, out of Huntsville, AL; he opted not to sign and attended Wallace State Community College. The following year, the Braves once again drafted Kimbrel–this time in the 3rd round–but this time signed him, despite a pending scholarship opportunity to play at Alabama.

At 5’11”/205lb. Kimbrel does not possess the size and strength of most major league closers; then again, neither does Billy Wagner. Since entering the Braves system in 2008, Kimbrel has absolutely dominated minor league hitters at all levels, posting video game-like numbers along the way.

In 3 minor league seasons, Kimbrel has produced the following line:

8-7, 1.85 ERA, 51 saves, 151 IP, 74 H, 31 ER, 5 HR, 95 BB, 242 K, 1.12 WHIP & 14.4 K/9

Every aspect of Kimbrel’s minor league career indicates that he has what it takes to close at the major league level. With a fastball that sits in the mid to upper 90s and an absolutely nasty slider, he possesses one of the best young arms across MLB bullpens, and should be viewed in the same light as both Aroldis Chapman and Chris Sale.

Braves manager Bobby Cox–who like Wagner, is set to retire at the end of 2010–has clearly recognized Kimbrel’s potential, as evidenced by his use of the youngster in key situations, including a save situation against the Mets on Sunday night. Kimbrel has made Cox’s life easy down the stretch of his illustrious career in baseball, as each time Cox has summoned for the right hander, Kimbrel has embraced the opportunity while making MLB hitters look foolish.

Kimbrel is going to be a name you hear about a lot over the next decade or so down in Hotlanta, so brush up on him now.

He’s also a guy who probably figures to come back next year as the set-up man at least initially. I look for the Braves to most likely try and bring back Billy Wagner for one more season at a reasonable price tag. If they can do that, they can slowly transition the young Kimbrel into the closer role.

By this time next year, Kimbrel should have a handful of saves on his resume and should be a guy you might think about selecting in a keeper league for your fantasy draft.

Love that young talent in Atlanta!