Atlanta Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was named the NL Rookie of the Year on Monday by the Baseball Writers Association of America with 32 first-place votes, topping off a dominant season for the hard-throwing right-handed pitcher. Teammate Freddie Freeman finished second.
He's the first Brave to win the award since SS Rafael Furcal in 2000, although OF Jason Heyward finished a narrow second to San Francisco Giants C Buster Posey last season.
Kimbrel is a Huntsville, Alabama native who Atlanta drafted in the 3rd round of the 2008 draft out of Wallace State Community College. After rocketing through the minor leagues in three seasons, he made his debut in Atlanta at the end of the 2010 season, appearing in 20.2 innings with a 0.44 ERA.
Despite his youth, he became the team's closer in 2011. In 77 late-game innings, the 5'11 205 right-hander was nearly unhittable, with 127 strikeouts to 32 walks and a 3.20 ERA.
From June 14 through Sep. 8, he made 38 consecutive appearances without allowing a run. He tied for the NL lead in saves with 46, shattering the previous rookie record.
Many believe his heavy usage earlier in the season contributed to his late-season fade, most notably his blown save on the last night of the regular season that knocked the Braves out of the playoffs.
But, barring injury, the future still looks bright for Kimbrel. The last two closers to win a Rookie of the Year Award, the Oakland A's Andrew Bailey and the Texas Rangers Neftali Feliz, have emerged as stars for their respective clubs.
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