School: Virginia; Class: Junior
Position: LHP; B/T: L/L
Height: 6-2; Weight: 185
Previously Drafted: N/A
Background: The recipient of the 2012 Virginia Player of the Year Award presented by Gatorade and ESPNHS, Kirby capped off a wildly successful prep career at James River by posting a 90-to-25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 56.2 innings of work; he also batted a cool .397 during his senior season.
On the outset, it appears the 6-foot-2 southpaw had a bit of a rough go of it during his freshman year with the Cavaliers in 2013: he posted a 6.06 ERA, worst mark on the team among with more than seven innings under their belt, but his strong peripherals suggested a potential breakout candidate; he posted a 37-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
And, of course, Kirby had his breakout campaign as a fulltime member of the Virginia’s starting staff: in 18 starts (113.1), he fanned 112, walked just 33 and posted a 2.06 ERA en route to winning nine games. He would also accept an invitation – though was unable to play do to the Cavaliers’ late post-season run – to play for Team USA. The ABCA, Baseball America, and Louisville Slugger each named him as a First Team All-American and the NCBWA would give him a Second Team nod as well.
Heading into his junior campaign Kirby was widely recognized as one of – if not the – top collegiate southpaw in the class. And, unfortunately, the results have largely been mixed: through his first 10 starts he’s averaged a career best 11.38 strikeouts-per-nine-innings, but has also managed to walk just three fewer batters than the previous season, despite tossing more than 50 fewer innings.
Projection: The best southpaw prospect to come out of the University of Virginia since Danny Hultzen in 2011 and arguably the second best in the school’s illustrious history, Kirby doesn’t own the arm strength of many of the class’ top hurlers (Carson Fulmer, Kyle Funkhouser, Mike Matuella, Phil Bickford, etc…). But he’s generally around the plate, despite the noticeable backwards step in control this season. And one wonders if a strained lat, which will likely force him to miss the season’s final weeks, may have been an issue before he was eventually shut down.
In terms of ceiling, Kirby is very similar to that of St. Louis’ Marco Gonzales, another polished southpaw who posted solid peripherals through his three-year collegiate run.
Kirby’s a solid #4-type arm – safe, low ceiling/high floor guy who should move rather quickly.
Ceiling: 2.0-win player
Floor: 1.0-win player
Risk: Low to Moderate
Grade: Mid to Late First Round