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.
Posts third save
PChicago Cubs
July 12, 2019
Kimbrel set the Pirates down in order during the ninth inning to record his third save in a 4-3 victory Friday afternoon.
ANALYSIS
He didn't register a strikeout, but Kimbrel induced a flyout and two groundouts to nail down the one-run win. Since yielding five runs over two outings against the Pirates last week, Kimbrel hasn't allowed a hit and walked one batter with three strikeouts in his last two appearances, both of which were saves. It's still a very small sample size, but Kimbrel is 3-for-4 in save chances with a 9.64 ERA, 1.71 WHIP and six strikeouts in 4.2 innings this season.
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Left/Right Pitching Splits
Since 2017
 
 
-22%
BAA vs RHP
2019
 
 
-36%
BAA vs LHP
2018
 
 
-9%
BAA vs RHP
2017
 
 
-39%
BAA vs RHP
BAA Batters K BB H 2B 3B HR
Since 2017vs Left .169 252 107 27 37 9 1 9
Since 2017vs Right .131 278 122 22 33 9 1 6
2019vs Left .214 18 5 2 3 1 0 1
2019vs Right .333 11 2 2 3 2 0 1
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
 
 
-23%
ERA at Home
2019
 
 
-100%
ERA at Home
2018
 
 
-22%
ERA on Road
2017
 
 
-25%
ERA at Home
ERA WHIP IP W L SV K/9 BB/9 HR/9
Since 2017Home 2.01 0.87 71.2 6 0 39 14.3 3.0 0.8
Since 2017Away 2.62 0.87 65.1 4 2 41 15.8 3.4 1.2
2019Home 0.00 1.33 3.0 0 0 2 6.0 6.0 0.0
2019Away 16.88 2.25 2.2 0 1 1 16.9 6.8 6.8
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.
  • BABIP
    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.
K/BB
1.75
 
K/9
11.1
 
BB/9
6.4
 
HR/9
3.2
 
Fastball
96.0 mph
 
ERA
7.94
 
WHIP
1.76
 
BABIP
.308
 
GB/FB
0.88
 
Left On Base
69.4%
 
Exit Velocity
92.5 mph
 
Barrels/BBE
28.6%
 
Spin Rate
2385 rpm
 
Balls Hit 95+ MPH
35.7%
 
Swinging Strike
13.5%
 
Advanced Pitching Stats
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Defensive Stats
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Recent RotoWire Articles Featuring Craig Kimbrel
AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week
3 days ago
Erik Siegrist sifts through a pitching-rich waiver wire in the American League and notes a number of players getting ready to return from the IL, including Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence.
AL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week
10 days ago
Erik Siegrist looks over the AL free-agent pool heading into the All-Star break and thinks Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen is poised to flip the script on a disappointing season.
Mound Musings: The Phones Are Ringing
13 days ago
Brad Johnson looks at the pitching desires of playoff contenders, including the Braves, who, in need of a closer, could be looking at Giants reliever Will Smith.
NL FAAB Factor: Waiver Pickups of the Week
17 days ago
Among this week's subjects, Jan Levine highlights Bryan Reynolds' proficient hitting ways that should keep him in Pittsburgh for good.
SXM Highlights: What To Expect From Craig Kimbrel
18 days ago
Jeff Erickson and Todd Zola advise fantasy baseball players on what to expect from new Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel.
Past Fantasy Outlooks
2018
2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
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
Fans three in second save
PChicago Cubs
July 6, 2019
Kimbrel struck out three and walked one in a scoreless ninth inning to secure the save Saturday versus the White Sox. He also hit a batter.
ANALYSIS
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Blows second save opportunity
PChicago Cubs
July 3, 2019
Kimbrel (0-1) was charged with both a loss and a blown save against the Pirates on Wednesday, allowing two runs on one hit and a walk over two-thirds of an inning.
ANALYSIS
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Allows three runs Monday
PChicago Cubs
July 1, 2019
Kimbrel allowed three runs on three hits over an inning of work in Monday's 18-5 loss to the Pirates. He struck out two.
ANALYSIS
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Could be unavailable Friday
PChicago Cubs
June 28, 2019
Kimbrel may be unavailable for Friday's game against the Reds, Jesse Rogers of ESPN.com reports.
ANALYSIS
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Earns first save for Cubs
PChicago Cubs
June 27, 2019
Kimbrel pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up the save against the Braves on Thursday, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out one batter.
ANALYSIS
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