Sunday, August 23, 2015

Random Prospect Sunday - Kyle Kinman

One of five All-Stars this season for the Rome Braves, Kyle Kinman quickly earned a promotion and then another one and in his second season, Kinman is with the Mississippi Braves. It pays to throw left-handed with skill.

I like to point out what happened with the Braves on the day these prospects were born because I'm a wee bit of a nerd that way. On September 25, 1990, Kinman joined the world in Omaha, Nebraska while the Braves whipped the eventual World Champion Reds 10-0 at that ugly park they used to play in. Tom Glavine tossed seven scoreless, David Justice hit a Grand Slam, and the Braves sported an infield of Francisco Cabrera at first, Jeff Treadway at second, Jeff Blauser at short, and Mark Lemke at third. Having 90's flashbacks yet?

Kinman as a Bellevue Bruin
Kinman graduated from Northwest High School, but the undersized southpaw received little in terms of interest and attended Butler Community College, where he was the 2010 Freshman of the Year out of the Jayhawk Conference. He was a two-way player who belted ten homers and won eight games. He later transferred to Bellevue University and starred for two seasons. At the plate, the outfielder hit .345 with 14 HR in 113 games, but on the mound, he showed some intriguing possibilities - especially in 2014. After sharing time between the rotation and bullpen in 2013, Kinman became a solid starter for the Bruins. He completed seven of his 13 starts and struck out an astounding 141 batters in 92.1 ING. Sure, it's just NAIA ball and it's not like the Bruins were competing against Texas or anything, but he did enough to influence the Braves to take him in the 25th round of the 2014 draft. The 25th round seems like a good time to take a chance on an undersized college lefty. In 2012, the Dodgers spent a 25th rounder on Daniel Coulombe, who has appeared in 10 games with the Dodgers over the last two seasons.

Once signed, Kinman reported to Danville. At 23, he was already a little old to be playing rookie ball even though he was just drafted. As such, he didn't struggle much in the Appalachian League. Kinman K'd 43 in 29.2 ING while walking just six. For you mathematicians out there, that's a rate of 7.17 strikeouts for each walk. Sure, it was a short sample size and yeah, I agree, he wasn't exactly an impressive lefty considering his age, but that's still pretty stout. Of the 30 left-handed batters he faced, seven (or a .233 OBP) reached base. His numbers look even better when you take out his first three appearances. Of his final 16 games, he allowed two earned runs in 25 innings, or an ERA of 0.72. This includes four walks and 37 strikeouts. Here's a small video involving Kinman. You only see two pitches before Kinman surrenders the only home-run he has ever given up professionally.

Despite the results of that at-bat, Kinman needed some kind of challenge so the Braves moved him up to Rome to start this season and over two-and-a-half months, the southpaw showed some good things (30 K's in 27 innings, 11 saves) and some concerning things (he walked 16, or 5.3 BB/9). It wasn't as pretty and tidy as his work with Danville the previous summer, but it was still productive and as the calendar flipped to July, the Braves moved Kinman to Carolina. He was with the Mudcats for about three weeks. In his six games, he logged 10.1 ING and struck out 16 to just three walks. It was pure domination and the Braves got the message, promoting Kinman to Mississippi for his first AA outing on July 25.

With the M-Braves, Kinman has once again received some ninth inning duties. He hasn't been scored upon in seven of his nine outings and picked up a handful of saves in the process. He matched his Carolina output with 16 K's in his first 10.1 ING, though he has been far less effective. He's been hittable, though that may be a fluke (.423 BABIP). His 6.1 BB/9 rate, though, needs work.

As far as a scouting report, Kinman relies on a four-seam fastball which has mid-90's velocity on the high end. He also mixes in a slider. Despite being a four-seamer, Kinman - to this point - has pitched like a groundball pitcher, though I wonder if that flips as he advances.

Kinman is a month away from turning 25 and with younger, better-sized players being churned out by the system, you might think that Kinman's time is now. If he stumbles, others will move past him in a system full of intriguing arms. But if Kinman keeps performing, he'll get a look. Left-handed relief is wide open for 2016 as far as the Braves are concerned. Andrew McKirahan and Matt Marksberry are already in the majors and while both have upside, neither has a grasp on a roster spot just yet. Mitchell Lambson was acquired in early July as another option plus Brady Feigl, who impressed this spring, is on his way back from Tommy John. Still, the lack of a veteran lefty might make the Braves anxious to bring in a reliever to help stabilize things, which only hurts the chances of Kinman making the 2016 roster. Nevertheless, it's a pretty good situation for Kinman and he could get an extended look next spring as Atlanta looks for options.

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