When the 2015 collegiate baseball season began, many viewed left-hander Nathan Kirby as a potential top-10 talent in that summer’s MLB Draft. Unfortunately a strained lat caused Kirby to miss a good chunk of his junior season and despite helping to lead Virginia to the College World Series, his draft stock slid quite a bit. The Milwaukee Brewers still saw enough potential in Kirby to make him the #40 overall pick, but another medical issue that cropped up during his post-draft physical lead Milwaukee to rescind their original bonus offer and sign him to a $1.25 mil deal that was well-below slot value for where he was selected.
Kirby would debut that summer with the low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, but he made just 5 appearances and posted a 5.68 ERA in 12.2 innings. He went on the shelf with a torn Ulnar Collateral Ligament in mid-August that ultimately required Tommy John surgery. The southpaw missed the entire 2016 season while rehabbing from the procedure, but both he and the organization were optimistic about his outlook for 2017 and going forward.
Rather than report to a minor league affiliate to begin the 2017 season, the Brewers kept Kirby in extended spring training to allow the southpaw additional time to complete his rehab. There has, however, been yet another bump on the road to recovery:
More bad news for #Brewers pitching prospect Nathan Kirby. Another elbow surgery today. Expected to miss another 8-12 weeks.— Tom (@Haudricourt) May 9, 2017
Per Haudricourt, Kirby began experiencing discomfort in his elbow that was diagnosed by team doctor William Raasch as ulnar neuritis, which is an inflammation of the ulnar nerve that causes numbness or weakness in the hand. Earlier today, Dr. Raasch performed an ulnar nerve transposition surgery to alleviate the issue. The stated recovery timeline wouldn’t put Kirby back on the mound until roughly August, and he may be in danger of missing a second consecutive full season of action.
Should Kirby wind up missing both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he would report to camp next spring as a 24 year old who has yet to pitch above low-A ball. He’s currently ranked as Milwaukee’s #26 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, but at this point it’s probably fair to say that we don’t really know what to expect from the hurler going forward.
Sometimes gambling on injured pitching prospects in the MLB draft works. It did for the Nationals when they drafted Lucas Giolito, and it did for the Rockies when they drafted Jeff Hoffman. It’s still early, course, but it appears as though this is a bet that the Milwaukee Brewers are in danger of taking a big loss on.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference