Rays Hope Swing-And-Miss Stuff Makes Overshadows Injuries for 19th Rounder Josh Kimborowicz

By Robbie Knopf

We have reached the point where teams believe enough in the success of Tommy John Surgery that it isn’t a major deal when a pitcher has it as long as he comes back healthy. At the same time, however, when you have two similar pitchers and one of them has undergone elbow surgery and one of them has not, you’ll pick the one with the less checkered injury history every time. For Everett Community College sophomore right-hander Josh Kimborowicz, the concern about his injury coupled with the year of development time that he lost outweighed his dominant 2013 season. But the Rays decided to finally select him in the 19th round and determine whether his injury history is a fatal flaw or a diversion from talent that should have been noticed earlier in the draft.

Kimborowicz, a well-built pitcher at 6’3″, 220, is 21 years old, a year older than your normal junior college sophomore. He began his career at Western Nevada CC before undergoing Tommy John Surgery and transferring to Everett. But when he finally made his college debut in 2013, the result was dominance. Kimborowicz emerged as the ace of a Everett team that won the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges championship, going 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA and 39 strikeouts against 14 walks in 6 starts and 34 innings pitched. And while junior college numbers always have to be taken with a grain of salt, Kimborowicz showed a repertoire that could be quite effective at higher levels as well.

As a starter for Everett, Kimborowicz worked primarily with a high-80’s fastball touching 90 MPH, and don’t let the velocity fool you into thinking that it was relatively easy to hit. Kimborowicz did a great job getting a downward angle on it, leading to devastating late life down in the zone that made making contact a tough proposition for opposing hitters. Its velocity isn’t much, but Kimborowicz did that while working as a starter and could at least get it up to 91-92 MPH in a relief role. He did have some issues with it straightening out and staying up, and the Rays will look to rectify that moving forward. Kimborowicz pairs his fastball with a low-80’s slider that looks like his fastball out of his hand before falling off the table with sharp late break. He has to stay on top of it more consistently to keep it from getting slurvy, but it looks like a second pitch with plus potential when it’s right. Kimborowicz completed his arsenal with a straight change that just gave hitters something else to think about. All of Kimborowicz’s pitches will require plenty of refinement, but the raw stuff is there for him to be an interesting bullpen arm.

Kimborowicz is likely limited to relief in the long-term because of a crossfire in his delivery and some effort involved, likely contributing to his elbow injury that required surgery. The Rays hope that his delivery will not pose a problem as long as he’s pitching in short stints, and the delivery does provide him with deception that make his pitches, which already feature excellent movement when he’s right, even harder to pick up. With a fastball that should be more effective out of the bullpen and a slider that also shows considerable promise, Kimborowicz might be a project, but he has a chance to be a strong big league reliever someday and getting a player like that this late in the draft is a great value. Combining non-explosive fastball velocity with Tommy John Surgery was a losing combination for Kimborowicz’s draft stock. However, with his entire arsenal showing the ability to blow away hitters, Kimborowicz’s future prospects could be significantly brighter.