Three years ago the Braves drafted a Kimbrel out of junior college in Alabama and it’s worked out pretty well, so they took another stab at it Wednesday.
The Braves selected Craig Kimbrel’s younger brother Matt Kimbrel out of Shelton State Community College in Tuscaloosa.
The 21-year-old right hander throws more sinking fastballs, not four-seamers like his brother; he’s a starter, not a closer. And he’s coming off elbow reconstruction surgery, which means the Braves will watch his progress this summer before deciding whether to sign him.
But just the prospect of having his brother complement him in the same organization tickled Craig Kimbrel, who was watching the draft on his computer Wednesday afternoon when the Braves took his brother in the 32nd round.
“That was awesome,” said Craig Kimbrel, who can’t help but wonder what it might be like to close for his brother some day. “…If he can go eight innings and I can go the ninth, that’d be awesome.”
Kimbrel said his brother throws his fastball about 91-92 mph and has better offspeed stuff than he does, with a good change-up and curveball.
Matt Kimbrel has offers to pitch for Florida Southern or Lehigh but will try to prove to the Braves this summer in the Florida State Collegiate League he’s ready for professional baseball.
“He’s relieved,” Kimbrel said. “The whole thing of wanting to get drafted, wanting to have the chance, now he feels like, ‘Now all I have to do is play baseball.’ He’s excited.”
The Braves entered the draft looking for left-handed pitching. They drafted seven left-handers overall, including first-round pick Sean Gilmartin of Florida State. They took an additional 17 right-handers, so almost half their draft picks were pitchers.
“I would have liked to have had a few more left-handers but there’s not many of them to begin with and you can’t get them all,” Braves scouting director Tony DeMacio said. “When you’ve got 50 something picks in between your (first and) second pick, a lot of the good arms are gone. That’s the way it is. (But) if we could pick 28 every year I’d be happy. It means we’re in the playoffs.”
Only 11 of the Braves’ 50 picks came from the high school ranks. And the Braves took only one player from Georgia – third base coach Brian Snitker’s son Troy – an indication that the state is a little down in talent this year.
Braves “middle of the pack”
Evaluating the Braves’ draft from the inside out, the dry-witted DeMacio smiles and says, “We’ll know in a few years, I guess.” From the outside looking in, Baseball America editor John Manuel says he considers the Braves about middle of the pack.
“It’s not a draft class that I’m looking at and thinking ‘Wow the Braves had a great draft,’ but it’s not one I’m looking at saying ‘What were the Braves doing’ either,” Manuel said. “It’s just in that bell curve of middle of the pack.”
Manuel called some of the Braves right-handers taken in the early rounds “intriguing power arms.” He mentioned fourth rounder J.R. Graham, a reliever from Santa Clara University with an upper 90s fastball whom the Braves intend to make a starter. He also pointed to sixth rounder Mark Lamm, one of 11 players from Vanderbilt drafted in the top 30 rounds, and seventh rounder Cody Martin, a reliever from Gonzaga whom Baseball America is naming its first-team All-American closer in Division I.
“There are some intriguing power arms there,” Manuel said. “And the Braves are pretty good at coaching up pitchers.”
Staff writer David O’Brien contributed to this report.