Nats’ top prospects - No. 7: Cole Kimball

Coming in at No. 7 on Baseball America’s Top 10 Nationals prospects is right-hander Cole Kimball, who made a meteoric rise up the rankings with a very successful 2010 in several challenging leagues.

The 25-year old Kimball was ranked fourth among minor league hurlers in the Nats organization in 2009, after posting 122 strikeouts for Single-A Hagerstown in 2008. The 2006 12th-round selection was so good this year, he was rewarded with a place on the 40-man roster last month.

Aaron Fitt of Baseball America says Kimball is really one of the great examples of the Nats’ revamped minor league system starting to bear fruit.

“One of the great stories of the Nationals’ player development system is Cole Kimball,” Fitt said. “He came into the system as an arm-strength guy, a raw thrower, and he really didn’t know how to pitch. He was kind of off the map there for a few years and then just kind of exploded on the scene.”

Fitt says the reason Kimball is so good is he has the arm and now knows how to pitch.

“His stuff is electric,” Fitt said. “It is a 95 to 98 mph fastball. He has a devastating split-fingered fastball at times. He has a decent curveball. It is everything you really want in a power, late-innings reliever.”

It appeared this year that Kimball made the strides necessary to make that next move to the majors.

Kimball went 8-1 with a 2.17 ERA and 18 saves, striking out 101 between Single-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg. He helped the Scottsdale Scorpions win the Arizona Fall League with a championship game save, finishing the AFL season with an 0.75 ERA in 11 games, allowing just one earned run and striking out 15 batters.

If Kimball can continue his dominance in spring training, he will have a very good chance of playing in D.C. next season.

“I agree with you,” Fitt said. “I think he has got a chance to make the big league club out of camp. I think he will be an impact guy for them this year.”

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