The Milwaukee Brewers announced earlier this season that prospect Taylor Williams would need to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery – replacement of the UCL ligament in the elbow. Unfortunately for the Brewers, it was reported today that yet another top prospect – left handed pitcher Nathan Kirby – will likely need to undergo the procedure as well.
Nathan Kirby was tabbed by Ray Montgomery and the Brewers as the 40th overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft this past June. Kirby served as Virginia’s ace throughout his three year collegiate career at the University, leading the team to a College World Series championship before leaving for the pros. Kirby missed some time during the season with injury, and signing was delayed until right before the deadline due to a medical issue that arose in his post draft physical. He eventually signed for an under slot $1.25 mil bonus and reported to the low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.
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Kirby ended up making five appearances for the T-Rats, pitching 12.2 innings, allowing eight earned runs for a 5.68 ERA. He struck out as many batters (12.3%) as he walked, posted a 1.74 WHIP and 64% ground ball rate. The 21 year old struggled particularly in his last two outings: 6.2 IP, 7 earned runs, four strikeouts, and five walks. He was placed on the disabled list on August 25th, and will now reportedly need to go under the knife.
Tommy John Surgery is typically accompanied by an extensive rehab period, and pitchers normally take between 12-18 months to return to big league action following the procedure. The surgery isn’t quite the death sentence that it used to be for pitchers, and boasts around an 80% success rate. The Brewers have a highly regarded medical staff, and hurler Wily Peralta has remained healthy for the last seven seasons since undergoing the procedure as a minor leaguer.
The Brewers obviously knew that Kirby had injury concerns when they selected him in this year’s draft, but this is no doubt a disappointing development for Milwaukee’s 14th ranked prospect, who some had hoped could rise quickly through the system. Kirby will now likely miss a full season of development in 2016, and will hopefully be ready to return to the mound as a healthy 23 year old in 2017.