By picking up No. 27 Thursday against the Rockies, Craig Kimbrel set a rookie record for the most saves prior to the All-Star break.
The old record was 26, set by Boston’s Jonathan Papelbon in 2006.
Kimbrel, who wasn’t picked for next week’s All-Star Game, has received a whopping 32 save chances in the Braves’ 89 games this season. The next most in either league is 28 for Brian Wilson.
While Kimbrel was quite shaky early, blowing four of his first 15 opportunities, he’s currently converted nine in a row and 16 of his last 17. He hasn’t even allowed a run since June 11, and his ERA is down to 2.40.
As long as he stays healthy, Kimbrel looks like a shoo-in to claim the NL saves record for a rookie, which has survived for 25 years since Todd Worrell saved 36 games for the Cardinals in 1986. The major league record is 40, established by Neftali Feliz last season.
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.