Craig Kimbrel
Craig Kimbrel
31-Year-Old PitcherRP
Chicago Cubs
2019 Fantasy Outlook
While his performance dipped in 2018, Kimbrel still turned in sterling ratios and benefited from pitching for a 108-win Boston squad, allowing him to finish as a top-three fantasy closer. However, some cracks in his armor have started to form. His average fastball velocity fell a full tick from the year prior, which likely factored heavily into his 80.4 zone-contact percentage, a 10-point increase from 2017. It ultimately didn't prove too harmful to Kimbrel's strikeout totals, but the righty saw his walk rate surge back over 10% and posted the worst home-run rate of his career. Fortunately, Kimbrel lessened the effects of his declining command and heat by making more use of his deadly knuckle-curve and inducing more soft contact, helping him limit opposing batters to .145 average. Kimbrel's peak may have come and gone, but his skills remain strong enough for him to warrant a top-100 selection in drafts. Read Past Outlooks
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$Signed a three-year, $43 million contract with the Cubs in June of 2019.
Serves up homer in return
PChicago Cubs
August 18, 2019
Kimbrel pitched two-thirds of an inning in a non-save situation against Pittsburgh on Sunday, allowing a solo home run and hitting one batter while striking out two.
Making his first appearance since landing on the injured list Aug. 5 with right knee inflammation, Kimbrel came on in the ninth inning and immediately served up a solo blast to Starling Marte. He then hit Cole Tucker with a pitch before whiffing the next two batters. The outing was a microcosm of Kimbrel's season thus far, as he has converted nine of 11 save chances and racked up 19 strikeouts in 13.1 innings while posting a 6.08 ERA and giving up five home runs.
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Pitching Stats
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2017
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2017vs Left .174 269 113 27 41 10 1 10
Since 2017vs Right .139 296 128 26 37 10 1 8
2019vs Left .233 35 11 2 7 2 0 2
2019vs Right .304 29 8 6 7 3 0 3
2018vs Left .153 116 42 17 15 5 1 4
2018vs Right .139 131 54 14 16 4 1 3
2017vs Left .178 118 60 8 19 3 0 4
2017vs Right .109 136 66 6 14 3 0 2
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Home/Away Pitching Splits
Since 2017
ERA at Home
ERA at Home
ERA on Road
ERA at Home
Since 2017Home 1.90 0.87 75.2 6 0 43 14.3 3.2 0.7
Since 2017Away 3.00 0.94 69.0 4 3 43 15.8 3.4 1.6
2019Home 0.00 1.14 7.0 0 0 6 10.3 6.4 0.0
2019Away 12.79 2.21 6.1 0 2 3 15.6 4.3 7.1
2018Home 3.06 0.99 32.1 4 0 20 13.4 5.0 0.8
2018Away 2.40 1.00 30.0 1 1 22 14.4 3.9 1.2
2017Home 1.24 0.72 36.1 2 0 17 15.9 1.0 0.7
2017Away 1.65 0.64 32.2 3 0 18 17.1 2.8 0.8
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Stat Review
How does Craig Kimbrel compare to other relievers?
This section compares his stats with all relief pitcher seasons from the previous three seasons (minimum 30 innings)*. The bar represents the player's percentile rank. For example, if the bar is halfway across, then the player falls into the 50th percentile for that stat and it would be considered average.

* Exit Velocity, Barrels/BBE %, Balls Hit 95+ MPH %, and Spin Rate are benchmarked against this season's data (min 20 IP). See here for more exit velocity/barrels stats plus an explanation of current limitations with that data set.
  • K/BB
    Strikeout to walk ratio.
  • K/9
    Average strikeouts per nine innings.
  • BB/9
    Average walks per nine innings.
  • HR/9
    Average home runs allowed per nine innings.
  • Fastball
    Average fastball velocity.
  • ERA
    Earned run average. The average earned runs allowed per nine innings.
  • WHIP
    Walks plus hits per inning pitched.
    Batting average on balls in play. Measures how many balls in play against a pitcher go for hits.
  • GB/FB
    Groundball to flyball ratio. The higher the number, the more likely a pitcher is to induce groundballs.
  • Left On Base
    The percentage of base runners that a pitcher strands on base over the course of a season.
  • Exit Velocity
    The speed of the baseball as it comes off the bat, immediately after a batter makes contact.
  • Barrels/BBE
    The percentage of batted ball events resulting in a Barrel. A Barrel is a batted ball with similar exit velocity and launch angle to past ones that led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage.
  • Spin Rate
    Spin Rate is the rate of spin on a baseball after it is released. It is measured in revolutions per minute (rpm).
  • Balls Hit 95+ MPH
    The percentage of batted balls hit that met or exceeded the 95 MPH threshold.
  • Swinging Strike
    The percentage of pitches that result in a swing and a miss.
96.0 mph
Left On Base
Exit Velocity
89.6 mph
Spin Rate
2381 rpm
Balls Hit 95+ MPH
Swinging Strike
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Defensive Stats
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
His Red Sox career got off to a somewhat disappointing start in 2016, but Kimbrel returned to elite form last season. The right-hander tapped into a bit of extra velocity and that helped him boost his strikeout rate by more than two per nine to 16.4. Best of all, he dramatically lowered his walk rate, shaving it from a career-high 5.1 BB/9 to a career-low 1.8 BB/9. Kimbrel was hit hard at times -- he allowed a 39.1 percent hard-hit rate and 91.4 mph average exit velocity -- but that's not a big deal when you allow so few batted balls in play (110 batted-ball events). An uptick in velocity can sometimes be a precursor to injury, but Kimbrel has been incredibly durable throughout his career, and with the skills bouncing back, Kimbrel has a clear case to go ahead of every reliever not named Kenley Jansen.
On the surface, Kimbrel filled his role as Boston's closer well. He converted 31 of 33 save opportunities and struck out 14.1 batters per nine innings. But if you dig a bit deeper, Kimbrel had his problems. While unhittable for stretches, an intermittent loss of the strike zone led to career highs in walks per nine innings (5.1) and losses (six). The walks made him somewhat unreliable, most notably in a gut-punching loss to the Yankees on the night the Red Sox "clinched" the AL East. And he was abysmal when called on in non-save situations. Kimbrel allowed 12 runs (11 earned) on 15 hits and 14 walks in 19.1 innings when the game wasn't on the line. Maybe that's not a big deal, but Boston will presumably continue to use him occasionally in non-save situations, so it is something to be aware of. Kimbrel will return as Boston's closer, with Tyler Thornburg and Joe Kelly getting the first shot as setup men.
Kimbrel's lone season with the Padres may end up a footnote in a Hall of Fame career, if his time in Boston is anything like his time in Atlanta. Traded to San Diego a day before the start of the 2015 season, Kimbrel fell short of 40 saves after reaching that threshold in four straight years, but he still finished fourth in the NL with 39 saves, blowing only four opportunities. His average fastball velocity was higher than it's ever been, and his swinging-strike rate was right in line with his career mark, but Kimbrel's H/9 and HR/FB rates both jumped significantly with lefties doing far more damage against him than they ever have in the past. That said, the peripherals remain excellent at age 27 and he is about as safe as they come at baseball's most volatile position, especially after the Red Sox gave up a nice package of young talent to acquire him from the Padres in November to take over as their closer.
At this point, Kimbrel's reputation as the most dominant end-gamer in baseball is well established. While his ERA jumped by 40 points in 2014, his FIP actually dropped by 10 points (from 1.93 to 1.83), and his strikeout, contact and swinging-strike rates all improved. He did take a step back with his control, posting a 10.7% walk rate, up from 7.8% a year before, but the right-hander averaged better than 97 mph on his fastball (a career high) and notched an NL-leading 47 saves, marking the fourth straight season in which he's led the league in that statistic. Right-handers had a bit more success against Kimbrel, but they still managed just a .436 OPS against him, and Kimbrel was equally dominant against lefties, improving his OPS against southpaws by nearly 150 points (from .574 to .425). The workload is starting to add up, and he could see fewer save opportunities in 2015 on a regressing Braves team, but he hasn't shown any real signs of slowing down to this point and is thus still the safest relief option on the board.
For the third consecutive year, Kimbrel led the National League in saves, becoming the 11th pitcher in major league history to reach the 50-save mark in a single season, while also becoming the first pitcher in the history of the game to record 40-plus saves in each of his first three full seasons. He set a Braves franchise record in 2013 by converting 37 consecutive save chances, and ended the season by converting 40 of his final 41 opportunities. After the calender turned to June, Kimbrel allowed just four earned runs over 46.2 regular-season innings (0.77 ERA), and he held opposing batters to a .161 average for the year. His strikeout rate did, however, drop by more than three per nine innings, to a career-low 13.2 K/9, and his swinging-strike rate was well below where it was in 2012 (13.6% from 19.2%). Lefties hit .211/.265/.309 against him, up from .116/.189/.143, and his walk rate was up slightly as well. All that aside, Kimbrel didn't lose any juice on his fastball, and is unquestionably one of most dominant end-gamers in all of baseball. He's still the easy choice for first reliever off the board in 2014.
Kimbrel is just 24 years old and is already the best relief pitcher in Major League Baseball. Kimbrel has been the Braves' closer for two years and led the league in saves both seasons. He won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2011 and finished in the top-10 of Cy Young voting each of those two seasons, while also finishing in the top-10 of NL MVP voting in 2012 after posting a 1.01 ERA. Kimbrel's K/9 rose to an absurd 16.7 while his BB/9 dropped to just 2.0. With his stuff and control, he is nearly unhittable. Over the last two years, Kimbrel has led all major league relievers in strikeouts and it isn't even close. He will be the first reliever off the board during fantasy drafts and for good reason.
Kimbrel set a major league record for saves by a rookie with 46 and won the NL Rookie of the Year award last season. Kimbrel's success wasn't merely a by-product of getting 54 save chances as his peripheral stats were outstanding as well. He had a 14.8 K/9IP, a 3.97 K/BB ratio, increased his groundball rate (to 44.8 percent of batted balls) and only allowed three home runs. His only blemish was that he wore down at the end of the season by posting a 4.76 ERA in September and blew three of his final eight save chances – including Atlanta's loss on the last day of the season that knocked them out of the playoffs. The Braves may try to reduce his workload a bit this season and have Jonny Venters save a few more games as a result. However, he'll should be among the elite NL closers again in 2012.
Kimbrel is the leading candidate to replace the retiring Billy Wagner as Atlanta's closer in 2011. The 2008 third-round pick averaged 95 mph on fastballs in the majors last season and also features a nasty hard curveball. He was dominating at Triple-A with a 1.62 ERA and 13.5 K/9IP and shuttled between Triple-A and Atlanta several times before getting regular duty in September, when he threw 11 scoreless innings with a 23:5 K:BB -- often in crucial situations. He also thrived in the playoffs by giving up just one run and one walk with seven strikeouts in 4.1 innings. Many times the best pitching prospects are not closers in the minors. However, this is a case where a top prospect was a minor league closer. And so far everything he's shown in the minors and in his brief time in the majors suggests he'll thrive in the closer role with the Braves -- as long as he can win the job this spring.
A future closer, Kimbrel overpowers hitters with a 95 mph heater and a nasty hard curve. His command is somewhat erratic, but minor league hitters had little chance against him last year. He led the minor leagues with 15.5 strikeouts per nine innings last season. He does need to improve his control as he had just a 103:45 K:BB ratio. Still, the Braves aggressively promoted him from Low-A to Triple-A last season, so he could be a part of the Atlanta bullpen in 2010. And it's not hard to see him becoming Atlanta's closer in 2011.
More Fantasy News
Returns from IL
PChicago Cubs
August 18, 2019
The Cubs reinstated Kimbrel (knee) from the 10-day injured list ahead of Sunday's game against the Pirates.
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Expected back Sunday
PChicago Cubs
August 17, 2019
Kimbrel (knee) will likely be activated from the injured list Sunday, Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune reports.
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Could return Saturday
PChicago Cubs
August 17, 2019
Kimbrel (knee) will either be activated or sent on a rehab assignment Saturday, Jesse Rogers of reports.
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Bullpen set for Thursday
PChicago Cubs
August 14, 2019
Kimbrel (knee) will throw another bullpen session Thursday, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
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Another bullpen session planned
PChicago Cubs
August 13, 2019
Kimbrel (knee), who is with the Cubs on this current road trip, is expected to throw another bullpen session later this week and thinks he could be activated in a few days if everything progresses as planned, Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
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